Myanmar and Bangladesh Agreed about Rohingya Return

Rohingya

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia bordered by Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand. Its military regime is one of the world's most repressive and abusive and the Rohingya people have consistently faced human rights abuses by the Burmese regime that has refused to acknowledge them as Burmese citizens (despite some of them having lived in Burma for over three generations). The Rohingyas are mainly illegal immigrants who migrated into Arakan following Burmese independence in 1948 or after the Bangladesh liberation war in 1971. The Rohingya have been denied Burmese citizenship since the enactment of a 1982 citizenship law.

Since October 2016, over 700,000 Rohynga Muslims have left Myanmar after a fierce military response that the United Nations and United States denounced as ethnic cleansing. The military denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have finally agreed to complete within two years the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled an army crackdown last year in Myanmar. Both countries have agreed the repatriation will be voluntary. The problem is that displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh have already expressed concerns about returning to Myanmar. "Our first priority is, they have to grant us citizenship as Rohingyas. Secondly, they have to give back our lands. Thirdly, our security must be ensured internationally. Otherwise, this is not good for us," Sirajul Mostofa, a community leader in a camp in Cox's Bazaar, told to BBC.

Mr. Guterres said the UNHCR had not been involved directly in the agreement and that "it will be very important to have UNHCR fully involved in the operation to guarantee that the operations abide by international standards". "The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar, keeping an artificial situation for a long time and not allowing for them to regain their normal lives."

The rape of Rohingya women by Myanmar's security forces was widespread, according to interviews with women conducted at displacement camps by UN medics and activists. The military denies it was involved in any sexual assaults.

Bangladeshi foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told BBC that the government had wanted to repatriate the Rohingya more quickly. "We asked them to take back 15,000 every week. But they said they will take back 300 people every day, so that makes 1,500 every week. So we compromised that we will start by sending 300 people each day, but there will be a review in three months' time and the number will be increased." If Myanmar takes only 1,500 people every week, it will take nearly 10 years for all refugees to return.

Myanmar officials said the length of the repatriation will depend on how quickly Bangladesh can provide documentation of refugees' previous residency and how fast applications are submitted. "Bangladesh authorities also need to proceed with the paperwork and documents for refugees and send it to us fast." Despite widespread accusations of human rights violations, Myanmar has consistently denied persecuting its Rohingya minority.

Also, a select committee has warned that international plans for the potential return of 100,000 Rohingya to Myanmar without a clear understanding of their legal status, destination or willingness to return represent a grave risk. The select committee said: “The required conditions for the safe return of the Rohingya must include … access to fundamental human rights. Previous episodes of displacement and return of the Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities, over the last 20 years do not inspire confidence.

Photo Credits: StaticFlickr

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