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Myanmar to face stronger EU pressure in Feb over Rohingya crisis

  • Published at 04:58 pm January 25th, 2018
Myanmar to face stronger EU pressure in Feb over Rohingya crisis
The European Union is likely to come up with a more genuine pressure on Myanmar in February so that it acts promptly, and creates an environment for the sustainable return of the Rohingya to their homeland from Bangladesh. "I'm sure there'll be new EU council conclusions on Myanmar in February. I hope there'll be more pressure. The only thing is to put more pressure on Myanmar," EU Head of Delegation Ambassador Rensje Teerink told UNB in an interview. In October last year, the council in its conclusions said it may consider additional measures if the situation does not improve but also stands ready to respond accordingly to positive developments. The EU envoy, however, said she is yet to know what the conclusions will contain – whether it will be arms embargo or targeted sanctions on Myanmar government and army. Teerink, who arrived in Bangladesh four months back, also said there will probably be more individual targeted sanctions on some of the generals. On Wednesday, Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on the Rohingya crisis laid emphasis on imposing arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Myanmar and its senior officials respectively to create a safe environment for the Rohingya to return to their homeland from Bangladesh. "I think it's time to impose an arms embargo on the Myanmar army, including targeted sanctions against the generals who are behind these atrocities," APHR Chairperson and Malaysian MP Charles Santiago said seeking the assistance of India, China and Russia in achieving these goals – three countries it claims are all selling arms to Myanmar. Santiago also sought steps to deploy peacekeeping force to oversee the movement of the Rohingya. He said without the presence of peacekeeping force repatriation will be difficult, in other words, he said, it will be almost impossible. "The repatriation should be safe and voluntary one." Giving her second observation on the Rohingya crisis, Ambassador Teerink said they can put pressure on the Myanmar government but the question is how they can convince people in Rakhine to welcome Rohingyas. "What we understand is that the Rakhine people are not very happy to have them [Rohingyas] back. So, you can try and integrate them but there is a negative public sentiment. It's very worrying," she explained. She said that many Rohingyas are afraid of going back to Myanmar. Recalling the situation at IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp which has no freedom of movement, she said: “The idea is, Myanmar is to build a township to welcome returnees.” On January 16, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on “Physical Arrangement” which will facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland from Bangladesh. The agreement stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start of repatriation. Asked about the way-out if repatriation process fails and subsequent third-country settlement, the EU Ambassador said: "A third-country settlement is very difficult. We've a migration crisis at our doorsteps as well." Teerink said they are also looking at the OIC but they have not seen much force coming from the OIC in this regard. The Ambassador, however, said the Rohingya crisis is not Bangladesh's problem but Bangladesh is a victim of this crisis. "Roots [of the crisis] lie in Myanmar," she said adding that the Myanmar government will continue to believe that they can get away with it if there is no strong pressure on them. The EU Ambassador complimented Bangladesh’s humanitarian efforts. She said: "International community cannot leave Bangladesh alone [to deal with the crisis]." In September, the European Commission announced additional humanitarian aid of three million euros to address the most pressing needs of the Rohingya people. The funding came on top of the 12 million euros announced in May 2017. The EU has been providing humanitarian support to Myanmar and Bangladesh for many years.