An important update from the always excellent Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, in a week that witnessed what at times felt almost like a whirlwind of concern and attention from the international community: the next round of the Beijing-led Tripartite talks towards a peaceful and fair resolution of the Rohingya crisis would be held following the national elections in Myanmar set for November 8.
During the call last night with his counterpart Dr AK Abdul Momen, Foreign Minister Yi also conveyed that Myanmar recently assured them of taking back the Rohingyas –740,000 of whom fled into Bangladesh in the space of just 5 days of August, 2017with the onset of a vicious crackdown by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s brutal and depending on the progress of a complaint filed by Burkina Faso at the International Criminal Court, perhaps genocidal military force. It was one of the largest and fastest movements of humanity ever witnessed, according to the UN, which was significant for it lends a clue as to the level of violence and cruelty they were running from. Those who made it joined a residual population of over 300,000, the result of earlier migrations dating back to at least 1978 in the post-independence era.
Now we will do well of course, to take the second of those assurances conveyed to Wang Yi with a pinch of salt. Besides niceties between diplomatic operatives, Bangladesh has never really seen any sign of a genuine intention, on the part of the Myanmar government representatives, to take the Rohingya back within the framework of a durable solution (for that will require prior steps signalling changes within Myanmarese society as well). Otherwise, who is to say that they would not be back again, in any number of years. Without even a pathway to citizenship, how could they gain that sense of security that is essential to the refugee population to facilitate voluntary repatriation?
While raising these questions, and making sure to keep them on the agenda, Bangladesh should the engagements ahead with an open mind. They are thankfully dealing with a man of gravitas and wisdom in Foreign Minister Yi, who I had the privilege of interviewing almost two decades ago for Dhaka Courier. His wealth of experience at the heart of crafting Chinese foreign policy throughout the period of China’s ‘peaceful rise’ leaves him well-placed to be the kind of strong and honest broker the process needs. September marked a year since the first meeting under this framework was held, and even then we welcomed it as the most promising avenue ahead of us to a satisfactory and lasting resolution of the Rohingya crisis. The meetings next month will be of critical importance to realising that vision.