Myanmar expresses readiness to return Rohingyas
July 29, 2019 | 19:37:PM | Update19:37:PM
Rohingya Refugees waiting for relief at Bangladesh Refugee camp
DHAKA – Myanmar today expressed its readiness to take back their Rohingya nationals amid fears of their fate once they returned to their homeland while Dhaka said the neighbouring country must earn their trust for launching the repatriation process.
The development came as a high-level Myanmar delegation visited the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and talked to their representatives while they visibly pursued them to return to their homeland in the country’s northern Rakhine state.
“Actually I asked them (Rohingyas) that this is the right time to consider whether they should to go back or not, because we provided explanation to their key issues,” Myanmar’s foreign affairs permanent secretary Myint Thu, who leads a 19-member delegation, told a news briefing in Dhaka.
He added: “Myanmar is ready to welcome the Rohingyas (back home) . . . but the only thing is they (Rohingya) have to decide (about their return) by themselves”. Bangladesh’s acting Foreign Secretary Kamrul Ahsan, who was present at the briefing as well, however, said Naypyidaw must generate trust among the Rohingyas for their spontaneous return saying “as long as confidence is not built up they (Rohingys) won’t go back”.
Ahsan simultaneously added: “we (Bangladesh) won’t push back anyone forcibly”. A 19-member Myanmar delegation in the last two days visited the Rohingya camps, one specially erected for Hindu residents of Ralkhine who too were forced to flee their home along with the majority Rohingya Muslims. This was the third visit by a Myanmar delegation to the Rohingya camps but this time they were accompanied by a 5-member ASEAN observer group during the interactions when the newsmen were barred from going along with them.
Myint Thu said during the interactions they tried to convince the Rohingyas to go back to Myanmar saying the situation in their homeland in northern Rakhine was now better and called the discussion “very candid”. “Then we tried to build up trust between the community leaders and our delegation,” he said.
Myint Thu said they also showed factsheet to Rohingya detailing the proposed repatriation process as well as their access to justice and access to education, health and social services. The top Myanmar foreign affairs bureaucrat said a part of the discussion was related to the Rohingyas citizenship NVC card issues.
Bangladesh’s foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, meanwhile, in a separate media interaction today at his office said Naypyidaw expressed its plan for the first time to provide the Rohingyas the natural citizenship which he called a “major breakthrough”.
He, however, said, the citizenship issue was an internal affair of Myanmar and Bangladesh would not like to be taken hostage on the issue while Dhaka only “wants safe return of Rohingyas and their mobility there”. Momen said he received an invitation from his Myanmar counterpart but “I told him I will go when the first batch of Roihingyas will return home”.
But he said Rohingyas should go back to their motherland to realize their rights and “they (Rohingyas) should understand, it’s not possible to realize their rights (citizenship) unless they are going back (to Rakhine)”.
In a related development, Bangladesh today handed over a list of more 25,000 verified Rohingyas belonging to 6,000 families to Myanmar for repatriation. Ahsan said Bangladesh earlier handed over list of 30,000 Rohingyas in two phases and among them Myanmar by now already verified 8,000 for repatriation in first batch.
Asked when the expected repatriation could start, he said “anytime” since Myanmar already verified 8,000 of them. The two secretaries joint briefing came after they held a nearly two-hour meeting at state guest house Meghna here in the capital.
About 1.1 million Rohingyas fled Myanmar into Bangladesh following alleged mass murder, rape and other atrocities in Rakhine since August 2017. The displaced Rohingyas are now living in 30 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar district.
Myanmar agreed to take back the Rohingyas under a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh on January 16, 2018. But, the deal did not progress much as there was little tangible action from the Myanmar side and refusal of the displaced persons to go back amid uncertainty and insecurity.
Previously, the first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but eventually they declined to go back, fearing that the situation in Rakhine was still not favourable.