No prospect of Rohingyaa returning to Myanmar anytime soon due to Napyitaw’s failure to create favourable conditions
Exactly 21 months ago yesterday, a bilateral instrument was signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from Rakhine who are sheltered in Cox’s Bazar. However, not a single person was taken back due to the unwillingness of the country’s second neighbour.
According to the deal signed on November 23 by then Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and the Myanmar minister attached with the office of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, the repatriation was supposed to begin by January 22, two months after inking the instrument.
The agreement also states that the whole process of repatriation was to be completed by January 22, 2020.
This agreement covers only about 740,000 Rohingyas, who had to flee their homes in Rakhine after August 25, 2017, to escape the unprecedented atrocities committed by Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from other ethnic groups, and about 80,000, who had crossed into Bangladesh in October 26 for the same reason. Another estimated 2.5-3 million Rohingyas, who had been living in Bangladesh for decades, are not covered by the deal.
Based on the deal, Myanmar was supposed to create a environment conducive for the safe, secure and dignified return of the displaced people. Since November 23, 2017, there have been many global developments, but nothing could stop Myanmar from ignoring the deal it signed with Bangladesh.
Despite making repeated pledges at many bilateral meetings and before international forums, Myanmar literally did not take any visible concrete steps that can make the Rohingyas in Bangladesh believe that they can safely return home. On the contrary, reports suggest that Rohingyas who are still in Rakhine are facing many problems owing to the actions of the authorities.
A number of people, including government officials, Bangladeshi and foreign diplomats, believe that the Myanmar government is intentionally obstructing the repatriation process to serve their own interests.
Clearing 3,450 people in about two years is a shameful example of Myanmar’s ill intentions, they say, adding that Naypyitaw is unlikely to budge without a strong international response. Such a response seems far away, as Myanmar has strong support from countries such as China, Russia, and even India to a significant extent.
On the other hand, Bangladesh is facing one of the gravest crises since its independence, without being a party to the crisis. Given the reality on the ground, Dhaka appears to be “helpless.”
Government officials concerned claim that they are doing all they can to address the problem, but there are many people who do not agree with the notion.
Despite having significant political and business engagements with China, Russia and India, Bangladesh has failed to prove itself more important than Myanmar, observe some Bangladeshi and foreign diplomats.
“As of now, Bangladesh can only wait and see,” said a former top diplomat.
Since the signing of the deal, Bangladesh has made two attempts to begin the repatriation – one on November 15, 2018, and the other on Thursday. Both have failed due to the unwillingness of the Rohingyas to return.
It is understandable why the Rohingyas are not willing to return. They do not trust the Myanmar government, given the treatment they received while in Myanmar.
The international community, including the United Nations, has not yet been able to get access to the affected areas in Rakhine. Until there is an assurance from the international community on the safety and security of the Rohingyas, as well as the presence of some kind of monitoring mechanism, the the displaced people are unlikely to return to their homes.
When contacted, several Bangladeshi officials have expressed frustration over the whole scenario, saying nothing can be done if Myanmar keeps on breaking its pledges.
“It is extremely difficult to deal with a country like Myanmar,” said a top government official concerned, adding that it was difficult to predict the future course of the crisis.