Friday, February 21, 2020 | ePaper

Rohingya Repatriation

No Progress In Sight Yet

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Mohammad Amjad Hossain
Rohingya repatriation to Rakhine state of Myanmar appears to be far-fetched dream. Interesting drama took place when without the knowledge of Bangladesh authority Rohingya refugees in camps observed 25 August as Genocide day at the instruction of Arakan Rohingya National Organization. Future of thousands of refugee Rohingya are hanging in balance as no prospect emerged after two years of atrocities carried on them by the Myanmar military junta from 25 August of 2017.Rohingya refugees took shelter on humanitarian ground in Bangladesh. Being an Indo-Aryan ethnic group Rohingya in Arakan  now known as Rakhine state of Myanmar has been residing for centuries.
Much waters have been flowing in  Naf river and Bay of Bengal since atrocities have been carried out on Rohingya .That has been reflected by UN fact-finding mission  established on the recommendation of UN Human Rights Council. It concluded that Myanmar military intended to perpetuate genocide on ethnic Rohingya Muslims when they drove hundreds of thousands from the country in 2017.Initially, members of fact-finding mission were denied visa by Myanmar government. The report of the fact-finding mission was submitted in September of 2018 to UN Human Rights Council. In January 2019, Amnesty International documented how military in fact carried out war crimes against conflict with the Arakan army in Rakhine state.
The 162-page report filed by an advocacy group: Fortify Rights in July of 2018 identified as many as 22 military and police officers who were directly responsible for systematically planned genocide campaign. It also recommended that UN Security Council should refer them to the International Criminal Court.   
On the other hand, a bilateral instrument was signed by Bangladesh and Myanmar on 22 November of 2018 on the basis of State counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi's suggestion that agreement should be based on 1993 agreement which did not address the citizenship status of the refugees but merely accepted them back on the basis of residency. Apart from this, Bangladesh has failed to involve United Nations High Commission for Refugees in bilateral agreement while UNHCR is the lead organization on the issues of refugees. It is intriguing to note why on earth Bangladesh did not insist to describe Rohingya as a citizen of Myanmar which was incorporated in bilateral agreement of 1980.
Since 1978 as many as 200,000 Rohingya were given shelter by Bangladesh government under temporary shelters put up near Cox's Bazar. A diplomatic maneuver was successfully exercised by the government to convince friendly government, including that of Datuk Hussein Onn of Prime Minister of Malaysia with whom Burmese government of General Ne Win has had excellent relations. We had to work hard from Kuala Lumpur to convince Malaysian government while this writer was working as third secretary with Bangladesh High Commission under High commissioner of Bangladesh Major General K.M.Safiullah.  This writer personally had spoken with President of ABIM (Malaysian Youth Muslim Movement) Mr. Anwar Ibrahim, who became Deputy Prime Minister later date, to take stand. Mr. Anwar spoke to Foreign Minister of Malaysia while this writer arranged an interview with important newspapers for Bangladesh High Commissioner.  As a result, Bangladesh government successfully signed bilateral agreement with Burmese government and within a span of 16 months, Rohingya were repatriated to Burma as citizen. General Ne Win, President of Burma denied their citizenship by introducing citizenship law in 1982 after their repatriation from Bangladesh.
Flurry of activities was carried out by Bangladesh diplomats but as of now failed to pursue China, India and Russia to take Rohingya refugees back as citizen of Myanmar, apart from forming tribunal like that of Rwanda and Yugoslavia by Security Council of the  United Nations to try perpetrators of Myanmar's military Junta and police as well who committed genocide.  Both China and Russia, veto power in the Security Council, blocked the statement of the United Nations Security Council against Myanmar in March; 2018. No resolution by UN Security Council went against Myanmar government. However, Security council succeeded to listen a report by Chairman of the Independent International fact-finding mission on Myanmar on 25 October of 2018 in spite of objection by China and Russia. The fact-finding mission found evidences of war crimes and crime against humanity and asked the Security Council to refer to the International Criminal court or create an International criminal tribunal to prosecute those responsible for war crime. Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crimes of genocide of 1948 is applicable.
By now many dignitaries from around the world, including the first lady of Turkey, Ms. Emine Erdogan accompanied by Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Queen Rania of Jordan visited camps of Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar and Ukiah upazila, apart from the 15-member delegation of Security Council. Last but not the least, a tripartite meeting in Beijing among Chinese foreign minister, Myanmar foreign minister and Bangladesh foreign minister in June of 2018 revealed that the issue of Myanmar's atrocities should not be internationalized but the problem should be solved bilaterally. This was revealed from a communication by Chinese state counsellor and foreign minister Wang Yi in a letter addressed to the President of Security council of the United Nations on 27 September of 2018.China also exercised veto on 28 September, 2018 to kill security council's effort for setting up a body to prepare evidence of human rights abuses and look into possible genocide for prosecution by International criminal court. Neither referring of to an International Criminal court nor formation of Tribunal by Security Council as it did on massacres in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Yugoslavia government took place during the last two-year following massacres of Rohingya of Myanmar. Here lies the successful diplomacy conducted by the Myanmar government.
Diplomacy by Bangladesh as of now did not achieve the desired result to send back Rohingya refugees to their homeland in Rakhine state of Myanmar with dignity, apart from reviving their citizenship status which was discarded in 1982.

(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat from Bangladesh and former President of the Nova Toastmaster International club of America, writes from Virginia)

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