August, 2018 11:31:26 AM
Myanmar tactfully delaying Rohingya repatriation
Bangladesh keeps Rohingyas calling ‘forcibly displaced’ people, but Myanmar says ‘no’
Independent Online Desk
Though nervous amid sustained pressure, Myanmar is apparently trying to delay the repatriation process without taking any quick step to create conducive environment in Rakhine for the safe return of Rohingyas, said an informed source.
Citing an example, the diplomatic source told UNB that Myanmar made a request to Bangladesh not to use ‘forcibly displaced’ but to write ‘displaced people’ during Bangladesh delegation’s recent visit to Myanmar. Even though Bangladesh did not make any comment on the request, Myanmar mistook the silence as acceptance by Bangladesh, he said.
A day after Myanmar’s request, Bangladesh side issued a press statement where it mentioned ‘forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals’. “This is a clear indication that Bangladesh has not changed its policy while identifying Rohingyas,” said the source.
During its visit to Myanmar, the Bangladesh delegation, led by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, saw the ‘trail of wide-spread devastation’ suffered by the people of Rakhine State, especially the burning of Rohingya houses, but Myanmar tried to narrate those as ‘accidental fires’ by Rohingyas themselves.
Asked about the progress of Rohingya repatriation, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said they are very hopeful that Rohingyas will return to their homes in Rakhine through a process. He, however, said the repatriation process is getting delayed a bit while Rohingyas want safety, security and their citizenship rights before they return to Myanmar. “There’s no doubt they’ll go back to Myanmar.”
“The entire process is a challenge. No challenge is beyond solution. We can overcome any challenge if there is a strong will between the two countries or parties. That’s important,” said the Foreign Secretary. He said the international pressure on Myanmar sustained over the past one year as Bangladesh worked both bilaterally and multilaterally to find a peaceful solution to the crisis. “We’ve seen broader embargo…I don’t see any possibility that pressure will come down.”
On Friday, the US Treasury slapped sanctions on members of the Myanmar security forces for their alleged role in violent campaigns against ethnic minorities across the troubled nation in Southeast Asia. Myanmar security forces have engaged in ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assaults, extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses, said Sigal Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
“Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behaviour as part of a broader US government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering.” The Trump administration earlier imposed sanctions on the chief of Myanmar’s western military command, but has faced pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers to impose more sanctions on those involved in a crackdown that began in August 2017 in western Rakhine State where 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fled brutal army operations.
Another diplomatic source said Bangladesh is well-prepared keeping in mind ‘all types of eventualities’ as there is an attempt of creating trap and provocation from other side of the border. “Bangladesh will never step into that trap.”
A diplomatic source in Washington said it will not be surprising if at one stage the US comes up with embargo on the entire Myanmar military and in that case consequences will be a longer one. There is a debate in the US whether they will officially call it ‘genocide’ or ‘ethnic cleansing’ when the Myanmar military is under tremendous pressure. “If the US calls it genocide in its official report of State Department there will be subsequent penalties to be imposed on Myanmar,” said another informed source.
Myanmar is likely to face a ‘fresh spell of pressure’ following the first anniversary of the Rohingya crisis – August 25 – as the international community keeps close eyes on Myanmar, diplomatic sources said.The UN Security Council will hold an ‘open briefing’ on the situation in Myanmar under the UK Presidency on August 28, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told UNB.
He said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are scheduled to brief the Council. There will be further high-level meetings and events during the General Debate and high-level segment of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly in September 2018, officials said.
The UN will continue to pursue meaningful implementation of the MoU concluded by UNDP and UNHCR with the government of Myanmar, officials said. The two UN entities have recently issued a joint statement in this regard outlining their priorities and challenges ahead.UNB.