Rakhine’s troubles spill over

A Rohingya refugee boy in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. File photo

Despite Bangladesh’s “serious efforts” to resume the halted repatriation process, the recent deteriorating condition in Rakhine State of Myanmar has brought “much worries” among all concerned, clouding the repatriation prospects.

More Rohingyas, not in a big number, entered Bangladesh territory in recent days amid the further deteriorating scenario in Myanmar.

In recent weeks, the intensification of violence between the “Arakan Army” and the Myanmar Army has led to increased humanitarian consequences for the civilian population and caused displacement of nearly five thousand people in Rakhine and Chin States.

“The situation is fragile there where Rohingyas were supposed to go back. We’ll certainly want to start the repatriation process,” Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Abul Kalam told our sister newsagency UNB.

At the same time, he said, it is right to say that it is a matter of worry to see the deteriorating scenario instead of significant improvement in the place of origin of Rohingyas. “So, there’s reason to be worried about.”

Responding to a question, RRRC Kalam said they have heard about few new entry but they are yet to verify it fully to determine the numbers. “It’s under verification process.”

Neighbours’ role important

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said the Rohingya issue will remain a priority one for the government mentioning that there should be an “obligation” for all neighbouring countries to make sure that the regional stability is protected. “I think this problem won’t be solved easily. So, we’ve to overcome many hurdles,” he said.

Emphasising the importance of stability and development in the country and beyond, the Foreign Minister said if stability prevails, development will take place and everyone will be benefited from it (stable atmosphere).

Minister Momen also urged all the neighbouring countries to work together for ensuring regional stability.

Asked whether the government will move ahead to resume the halted repatriation process in line with the already signed bilateral agreement with Myanmar or there will be new mechanisms, Momen said he needs to study it further in details.

He supported Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s five-point proposal placed at the UNGA over finding an amicable solution to Rohingya crisis but noted that the international community could not play its due role on those very good proposals.

The Foreign Minister thinks the international community did not perform their responsibility properly though Bangladesh showed its generosity giving Rohingyas shelter on humanitarian ground.

“The international community has a big responsibility for their (Rohingyas) repatriation and rehabilitation,” he said adding that the interest of Myanmar, India, Thailand and China, not only Bangladesh, might be affected if the Rohingya crisis remains unresolved.

Terming the Rohingya issue a very serious one, the Foreign Minister laid emphasis on further analysing economic, social and security impacts and subsequent consequences due to the Rohingya crisis.

Situation Reviewed

The national taskforce for Rohingya refugee response, chaired by Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, reviewed the overall situation on Rohingya last week and discussed how the international community can genuinely get engaged to resolve the crisis.

“Firstly, we evaluated the repatriation-related situation and got updated on the recent incidents (in Myanmar),” a senior government official who attended the meeting told UNB.

He said they also discussed the proposed 2019 joint response plan for Rohingya humanitarian to determine the funding mechanism and priority areas. The plan will be finalised soon for formal launching.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam has already said the government will continue to take effective steps to address the pending issues, including solution to the Rohingya crisis.

The State Minister said they did not deliberately push the repatriation issue that much before the election as the repatriation could not take place as agreed by the two countries though the two countries were very close to starting the repatriation.

“Our efforts will be expedited in the coming days, I can say that with confidence,” Shahriar said keeping focus on the listed and verified Rohingyas.

Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to begin the repetition of the first batch of Rohingyas by mid-November last year but it was halted.

The international community appreciated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s humanitarian support to nearly 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar.

An official wishing to remain unquoted said more Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh from other countries.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has recently sought clarification from India over the return of Rohingya and regretted the India’s decision.

There are an estimated 18,000 Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in India, living across different locations, it said.

Lee to visit Rohingya camps

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee will visit Bangladesh soon to see Rohingya situation in Cox’s Bazar district amid Myanmar’s continued denial to her access to Rakhine State.

Lee, who earlier said incidents in Rakhine State bear the “hallmarks of genocide” and called for accountability in the strongest terms, will begin her Bangladesh visit on January 19.

She also plans to visit the island of Bhashan Char in Noakhali. The Bangladesh government has planned to shift Rohingyas to the island.

The UN Special Rapporteur will present her findings and recommendations at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur is visiting Thailand from January 14 before travelling to Bangladesh on January 19, according to a message received from Geneva.

The Myanmar government has maintained its decision to cease cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, and refused her entry to Myanmar.

“I still seek to engage with the Myanmar government, and I remain committed to my mandate to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar. I’ll continue to meet people from Myanmar and speak out about human rights issues that occur around the country,” said Lee on Friday.

ICRC Head of Delegation in Myanmar Stephan Sakalian said they are concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the latest armed clashes in Rakhine, particularly as it compounds an already precarious situation.

“The ICRC is concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the latest armed clashes in Rakhine, particularly as it compounds an already precarious situation,” explains Sakalian, ICRC resident representative for Myanmar.

  • DhakaCourier
  • Vol 35
  • AKM Moinuddin
  • Issue 28
  • Rakhine’s troubles spill over

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