Idea of forming int’l commission welcomed; concerns remain over access to Rakhine
Bangladesh needs to internationalise the Rohingya issue in a stronger way within the United Nations and outside of it as two consecutive attempts to repatriate Rohingyas turned futile amid Myanmar’s mockery, says an international affairs analyst.
“It’s clearly understandable that it’s a farce. They (Myanmar) aren’t serious at all. We need internationalisation of the issue in a stronger way,” Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University’s (DU) International Relations department told Dhaka Courier as the crisis steps into the third year.
Despite all the preparations, no Rohingya turned up on August 22 to avail of the “voluntary” repatriation offer given to them to go back to their place of origin in Rakhine State of Myanmar prompting the authorities to suspend the repatriation process for the day.
The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but it was also halted amid the unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for lack of a congenial environment in Rakhine.
More than 730,000 Rohingya fled and took shelter in Bangladesh to escape a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing since August 25, 2017.
Prof Imtiaz said Myanmar tried to demonstrate that they are sincere and serious to take back their nationals as the 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 74) opens next month.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said they are thinking about forming an international commission with people from various countries to go and see the development in Rakhine and inspect whether peace and stability are prevailing there or not with required steps.
“Myanmar should prove that development is there and peace is prevailing,” he said adding that Myanmar can also take journalists there to see the situation on the ground.
Talking about the idea, international analyst Prof Ali Riaz said idea of forming a commission should have been floated two years ago when the Rohingya crisis was at the top of the agenda of the international community.
“It would have been easier as a follow-up to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s five-point proposal at the UNGA in 2017,” the professor at the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University (ISU), USA told Dhaka Courier.
He said Bangladesh’s decision to deal with it bilaterally and sign an agreement “without any arbitration mechanism and without any third-party involvement” has practically shut that door.
Now, Prof Riaz said if Bangladesh is serious about the proposal of forming an international commission it will have to start an open diplomatic effort and use “any leverage” it has with countries like China and India.
How will the proposed commission be reconciled with and incorporated in the current agreement is a question Bangladesh should explain immediately, he said adding, “I’m afraid Myanmar will not provide access to any international commission unless China, India and Japan put pressure on Myanmar government and the military.”
Without these two steps, Prof Riaz thinks, the success of the proposal is unlikely.
Prof Imtiaz said the formation of an international commission will be a logical one as Myanmar is taking applying diplomatic tricks again and again without any seriousness about repatriation.
“If an international commission is there in place, Myanmar will have little scope to blame Bangladesh what they try to do always,” he said adding that efforts need to be intensified and Bangladesh’s body language needs to be changed.
Responding to a question, Prof Imtiaz said Bangladesh can say loudly that Myanmar is not serious at all if they do not give access to planned commission into Rakhine State.
At least this time, he said, Myanmar could take 10 journalists and 10 Rohingya people there to show them what arrangements Myanmar has made for the safe return of Rohingyas.
No Change in Myanmar’s Approach
As of now, Prof Riaz said, there is no visible or substantive change in Myanmar’s approach.
He said Myanmar continues to refuse to address the fundamental issues such as security, dignity and citizenship of the Rohingyas.
“Myanmar has adopted a strategy that will continue to prevent an international effort to punish it for the crimes; its recent measures at the request of China, India and Japan are only a part of it,” Prof Riaz thinks.
On Thursday night, Jubo League leader Omar Faruk, 30, was shot dead at Jadimura in Teknafupazila allegedly by a group of Rohingya criminals.
On Friday afternoon, hundreds of agitated locals stormed a Rohingya camp and vandalised makeshift houses and NGO offices following the murder of the local Jubo League leader.
They burned tyres and plastic boxes to block a five-kilometre road from Teknaf municipality to Leda Point for three hours. The residence of Rohingya leader Noor Mohammad was also torched.
Two Rohingya youths, suspects in the murder of Jubo League (JL) leader Omar Faruk, were killed in a reported gunfight with police in Teknaf upazila on August 24.
The deceased were identified as Md Shah and Abdur Shukkur of Jadimura Rohingya Camp in Teknaf.
“It’s not surprising that the law and order situation in the camps are deteriorating. On one hand, despair and helplessness are growing while hostility from the host community is contributing to it on the other,” Prof Riaz said.
He said Bangladesh’s “exasperation” is quite visible and that is not helpful either.
Prof Riaz said unscrupulous people and criminal elements are taking advantages and unless steps are taken, involving all stakeholders, the situation will get worse.
Prof Imtiaz said Myanmar tries to take advantage of some comments that came from various corners and published in the media.
He said the government officials, particularly, need to talk a bit carefully which will be good and helpful. “We need to be more careful.”
Prof Imtiaz mentioned that some comments made by individuals as private citizen, also gets published in the media, and Myanmar try to take advantage of it.
He said Bangladesh has many things to do and can talk to other countries which are also hosting Rohingyas.
Message Must Reach Myanmar
Prof Imtiaz said most of the messages, being said and discussed here, are not reaching the mass people of Myanmar.
“I think time has come to do, even on small scale, in Burmese language,” he said referring to the Voice of America and BBC.
Through such initiatives, the people of Myanmar will also know what Bangladesh and the international community are saying about the Rohingya issue.
The two countries signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017, but there has been little progress.
On July 29, Bangladesh handed a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas from around 6,000 families to Myanmar for verification before their repatriation to Rakhine State.
With the latest list, Bangladesh has so far handed the names of around 55,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities and around 8,000 of them have been verified. Myanmar only cleared 3,450 Rohingyas for beginning the repatriation.
On January 16, 2018 Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on “Physical Arrangement”, which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.
The “Physical Arrangement” stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.