Fresh possibilities of Rohingya repatriation

Myanmar, ASEAN delegates in Cox’s Bazar for talks today


A new turn in resolving the Rohingya may be expected with the arrival of high-level delegates from Myanmar and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

At the outset, a joint meetings of Repatriation Task Force or RTF of Bangladesh and Myanmar could take place to give the preparations of the much talked about Rohingya repatriation a new dimension. 

According to officials, members of the delegations will begin their two-day visit to Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar today (Saturday). During their visit, the delegates will meet and exchange views to learn about potential returnees from Muslim and Hindu Rohingya communities. 

Besides this, they would also meet officials from Bangladeshi, the United Nations and international humanitarian agencies on refugee in a bid to address the disputes on the physical arrangement of repatriation. 

There will be several meetings between Rohingyas and the delegates where the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance, AHA will present its plan on Rohingya rehabilitation in Rakhine state in Myanmar. 

“The high-level Myanmar delegation’s visit to Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar will be motivational for Rohingyas, that will also project how Myanmar authority comes to resolve the crisis,” said Mohammad Abul Kalam, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner and also Chief of RTF Bangladesh. 

He told Bangladesh Post, “The RTF of two countries is set to meet for the first time to discuss modalities of physical implementation of the Rohingya repatriation from Bangladesh. Myanmar officials will inform about their preparation for taking back their nationals. There is a possibility of an understanding among the parties on removing existing barriers to repatriation.”

Myanmar Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary U Myint Thu will lead the delegation of officials from the Social Welfare Ministry and the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine. Among the 14-member delegation, 10 are from Myanmar and the rest are from ASEAN. 

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Thursday reiterated his hope that Myanmar will soon start taking back its nationals from Bangladesh as global pressure on the neighbouring country is mounting.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 and agreed that the first batch of 2251 refugees from northern Rakhine State would return to Myanmar on November 15, but the refugees refused to return over fears for their safety after returning. 

Despite Myanmar’s claim that it is ready to start repatriation but the country has made “minimal” preparations for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, said an Australian think-tank after analyzing the satellite data which were collected very recently. 

It is anticipated that the announcement of Rohingya repatriation will begin before the start of next United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September.

Ashraful Azad, Assistant Prof of International Relations told Bangladesh Post, “Presence of ASEAN delegation seems very promising and serious.” 

He said that emphasis should be given on how the meeting's decisions will be implemented. The manner in which Myanmar is behaving. “It seems we need pressure from the ASEAN countries, China and India to achieve success.”

On Oct 2018, a 16-member Myanmar delegation led by Myanmar Foreign Secretary Myint Thu visited Ukhia’s Kutupalong Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar. At that time they also talked with some Rohingya victims and had assured them that necessary measures would be taken. But Rohingyas were not convinced. 

Apart from visiting Cox’s Bazar, the team will have a meeting with the foreign secretary in charge in Bangladesh and ASEAN and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance team in Dhaka on Monday.