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Rohingya repatriation: No choice for Bangladesh but to helplessly wait

  • Published at 07:05 pm June 14th, 2021
rohingya camp
File photo of a Rohingya camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Myanmar military regime has not communicated with Bangladesh on the crisis four and a half months after assuming power

The repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh remains uncertain due to the unwillingness of Myanmar, which is in turmoil following the military takeover on February 1.

The military regime seems to be following the footsteps of the government it ousted with respect to the Rohingya crisis, doing nothing so far to take the displaced Myanmar nationals who have been residing in camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Right after the coup removing Aung San Suu Kyi from power, regional commanders visited an isolated camp housing internally displaced Rohingyas and two mosques in Rakhine. In early February, junta chief General Min Aung Hlaing said the Rohingyas who fled Rakhine in 2017 would be repatriated. 

These developments led some in the Bangladesh government, including Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, to be cautiously optimistic.

However, the Myanmar regime has not yet done a thing to take back the Rohingyas four and half month after coming to power. It has not even communicated with the Bangladesh government a single time with respect to the protracted crisis.

To make the matter even worse, junta chief Hlaing, who in early February said that Rohingyas would be repatriated, said in late May that the people belonging to the persecuted community might not be allowed to return to their homes in Myanmar.

The much-hyped tripartite initiative involving Bangladesh, Myanmar and China has also stalled due to the change of government in Naypyitaw.  

Bangladesh, which is paying a heavy price without being a party to the crisis, has no choice but to helplessly wait for the repatriation to commence in accordance with the agreement both the governments signed.

“The Rohingya crisis is one of the worst problems we have. We want the repatriation as soon as possible,” Foreign Minister Dr Momen told Dhaka Tribune prior to travelling to New York, where he will attend a high-level discussion titled “The Current Situation in Myanmar: Implications for the Rohingya Minority” on Tuesday.

“As always, I will highlight the crisis,” he said about the event.

To a question, the foreign minister said: “No, the Myanmar military regime has not communicated with us about the Rohingya issue. They, however, communicated with us on two occasions – on the birth centenary of Bangabondhu and the 50th year of our independence.”

When asked if the government of Bangladesh communicated with its Myanmar counterpart, he said: “We want them to contact us first.”

According to Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, it will take time for the tripartite initiative and bilateral process to resume due to the changes in Myanmar.

“Look, the issue of the repatriation of the Rohingyas is the least of the concerns for the military government. We must not forget that the Rohingyas are in Cox’s Bazar owing to the brutality of the military led by the person in state power now,” a senior diplomat said.

“So, there is nothing that Bangladesh can do right now. It is a helpless situation,” he said.

Two other senior diplomats said Myanmar was always a difficult country to deal with and it became even more difficult after the military takeover.

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