Decisive actions sought from Myanmar to remove trust deficit


Dhaka, August 29: Bangladesh on Thursday urged Myanmar to take “decisive actions with demonstrable political will” to reasonably address the core concerns of Rohingyas to create a conducive environment for their return.Bangladesh also reminded Myanmar that it needs to be done in line with the spirit and provisions of the bilateral instruments on repatriation and the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, UNB reports.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen conveyed Bangladesh’s position while briefing diplomats at state guesthouse Padma as two consecutive efforts to begin the repatriation of the displaced people have failed.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque were president.

Dr Momen said the government of Myanmar should seriously consider a comprehensive engagement of the international community in creating of an environment conducive for their return as well as in monitoring of repatriation and reintegration process in Myanmar.

“It’s Myanmar’s responsibility to create a conducive environment in Rakhine through decisive actions and to reduce trust-deficit of Rohingyas through appropriate measures, including dissemination of authentic information on the ground reality,” he said.

The Foreign Minister said the non-commencement of repatriation due to unwillingness of the people concerned is fully attributable to the failure of the government of Myanmar in fulfilling its obligations.

Dr Momen said the government of Myanmar must also assume its responsibility to encourage Rohingyas to opt for voluntary return by sharing correct information with them in all possible ways.

“Unsubstantiated claims without proven evidence on the part of the government of Myanmar are not going to contribute to the commencement of repatriation,” he told the diplomats.

Instead of fulfilling its own obligation, Dr Momen said, Myanmar still continues playing the blame game and misleading the international community with fabricated information and misrepresentation of facts.

Myanmar Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe reportedly told the Russian Foreign Minister at a bilateral meeting in Moscow on June 10 that the root cause of the issue in Rakhine is the illegal migration of about half a million Bangladeshi to Myanmar after 1975.

Lately, at the 52nd Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and subsequent ARF Ministerial meeting in Bangkok in July-August 2019, Myanmar Union Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin mentioned that the Rohingya crisis is “an issue with deep-rooted history involving irregular cross-border migration, as there had been three waves of illegal mass migration into Myanmar since the time of colonial period and it is, therefore, imperative to solve the issue bilaterally.”

Tin further refuted that the number of displaced persons claimed by Bangladesh as 1.2 million is too much inflated and have to be verified and confirmed.

This was not the first time, Myanmar contesting the widely accepted figure of displaced Rohingya taking temporary shelter in Bangladesh.

“In fact, Bangladesh is witnessing such ill-motivated statements from Myanmar side for quite some time,” Dr Momen told the diplomats.

As far as the nationality of Rohingyas is concerned, there cannot be any confusion, he said.

At the bilateral instruments on return, Myanmar has recognised them as “Myanmar residents”, although Myanmar still refuses to allow them citizenship. Such statements clearly indicate that Myanmar still pursues the policy of exclusion and marginalization of its ethnic minorities.

Dr Momen said Myanmar often tries to give an impression that Bangladesh is not allowing or facilitating the repatriation.

Bangladesh reassures that the government of Bangladesh maintains its principled position of not preventing anyone, regardless of ethnic and religious identity, who intends to return to Myanmar anytime.

The government of Bangladesh always stands ready to extend all possible cooperation to those who volunteer to return, he said.

Sincerity of Bangladesh in facilitating earliest repatriation of Myanmar residents has been unquestionably established through its actions.

Thousands of both national and international media are monitoring it on a day-to-day basis. “Let Myanmar also allow global media and UN agencies, as Bangladesh did, to monitor and report on Myanmar’s readiness in receiving their displaced people, Rohingya,” Dr Momen said.

He said Myanmar’s failure to effectively dismantle the IDP camps in Rakhine and resettle the camp-dwellers to the places of their original residence or places of their choice, as well as taking back the people sheltered at the international boundary (zero line) is a clear manifestation of lack of will on the part of Myanmar to repatriate and integrate these persecuted people.

“Needless to mention, such initiatives require no involvement of the government of Bangladesh,” he said.

Dr Momen said accusing Bangladesh of non-cooperation in the repatriation effort by a party who is fully responsible for the protracted crisis is baseless, ill-motivated and totally unacceptable.

Bangladesh urged the government of Myanmar to fully concentrate on the implementation of its obligations and commitments necessary for a durable solution of the problem.

Bangladesh concluded three bilateral instruments with Myanmar on repatriation of forcibly displaced Rohingyas about two years back.

According to bilateral instruments, the repatriation was scheduled to commence in January 2018 with a target to complete the process in the next two years.

“But regrettably, the physical reparation has yet to begin,” Dr Momen said.

After the abortive effort on November 15 last year, another repatriation attempt was made on the 22nd of this month with a fresh list of 3,450 Rohingya individuals out of 1.1 million verified by Myanmar.

Bangladesh agreed to facilitate the commencement of repatriation on 22nd August in the backdrop of Myanmar’s repeated claim that they are prepared to receive the displaced persons and the visit of a high-level delegation from Myanmar at camps in Cox’s Bazar on July 27-28, 2019 to convince the displaced people to return.

But regrettably, Dr Momen said, Myanmar failed to dispel the trust-deficit between Myanmar government and their displaced people.

In line with their commitment to the principle of voluntary return, Bangladesh handed the list of 3,450 individuals so far verified by Myanmar to UNHCR through the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Dhaka on August 8, 2019 to ascertain whether these people are ready to return voluntarily to northern Rakhine under the present circumstances.

Bangladesh ensured all the necessary arrangements in Bangladesh side, including security and logistics, for the voluntary return of Rohingyas to northern Rakhine and welcomed the diplomats from both Chinese and Myanmar Embassies in Dhaka to monitor the whole process and preparations at Cox’s Bazar.

Out of the list of 3,450 Rohingyas handed by Bangladesh, UNHCR interviewed 339 families comprising 1,276 individuals till 22 August 2019.

In the interview process, all available information and the fact-sheets provided by the government of Myanmar were shared with the families concerned.

Besides, adequate measures, including security arrangements, were ensured so that the people concerned could freely express their intent. But unfortunately, no one of the families interviewed agreed to return in the present circumstances, as they consider the security situation and overall environment in Rakhine not yet conducive for their return.

Almost all the families interviewed expressed their deep concern over the security situation in Rakhine.

Overwhelming majority of the families underscored the lack of progress in addressing justice and rights-related issues, including citizenship, freedom of movement, and land-use rights.

However, all the families interviewed have reaffirmed their desire to return, once their concerns are reasonably addressed by the government of Myanmar.

Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh expressed utter dismay that Myanmar delegation was unable to report any progress concerning citizenship, rights, and security issues for their return to northern Rakhine.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs hurriedly issued a press release on August 22, 2019 accusing Bangladesh of not being able to send their people due to alleged non-compliance with the bilateral instruments.

As per the bilateral instruments on repatriation, the responsibility of encouraging the displaced people to opt for voluntary return lies entirely on Myanmar.