Bangladesh continues to bear the burden of over 1.1 million Rohingyas as no repatriation took place over the last four years amid "lack of initiative" from the Myanmar side and "inadequate steps" by the international community.

Four years ago, Myanmar's military launched a horrific "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State. The brutality of the military's atrocities on that day shocked the conscience of the international community.

The Rohingyas, according to the government of Bangladesh, are not refugees here. They are persecuted and displaced people and taking shelter here on a temporary basis. Bangladesh is against any long-term programme for the integration of Rohingyas into Bangladesh as repatriation remains a priority.

The last exodus began on 25 August 2017, when violence broke out in Myanmar's Rakhine State, forcing thousands of Rohingyas to seek shelter in Bangladesh.

Most arrived in the first three months of the crisis and the vast majority reaching Bangladesh are women and children, and more than 40 per cent are under age 12, according to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

Bangladesh shares borders with Myanmar and thinks stability in Myanmar is critically important in finding a durable solution for the Rohingyas who are victims of atrocity crimes.

In June this year, Bangladesh expressed "deep disappointment" over a new resolution on Myanmar at the United Nations General Assembly as "it has failed to recommend actions" on repatriation of the Rohingyas and failed to adequately reflect on the crisis.

The resolution did not include any recommendations or actions on the issue of repatriation of the Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar. Neither does it recognize or stress the need for creating a conducive environment in Rakhine for the safe, sustainable and dignified return.

The resolution also lacks determination to address root causes of the Rohingya crisis through collective means.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said since there was no major violence in the Rakhine State in the last four years, repatriation can start under the supervision of a neutral international body.

Bangladesh also sought ASEAN role to convince Myanmar to create a conducive environment for a safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingyas.

Dr Momen recently suggested that an ASEAN-led observer team may be deployed in the Rakhine State to oversee the repatriation process.

Bangladesh remains "hopeful" about the repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State despite the military government being in place considering the repatriation that took place in 1978 and 1992 (under military government), officials said.

Bangladesh had handed over a list of 840,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for verification but the verification process by the Myanmar side was very slow, Dhaka says.

Repatriation attempt failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019 amid Rohingyas' lack of trust in the Myanmar government.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed the repatriation deal on November 23, 2017. On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on 'Physical Arrangement', which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

Justice and Accountability

The National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar has said they will endeavor to seek justice and accountability for all crimes committed by the military against the Rohingya and all other people of Myanmar across the country throughout their history.

"It is important to bring perpetrators to account in the interest of truth and justice, as well as because we believe doing so will act as a deterrent against future atrocities," NUG said in a statement marking the 4th anniversary of the atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingya people on August 25, 2017.

The National Unity Government, a government in exile, said voluntary and safe repatriation of Rohingya people in a dignified manner is their "utmost priority" with all basic rights of the Rohingyas in place.

They believe that repealing the 1982 Citizenship Law with a new one that bases citizenship in Myanmar or birth anywhere as a child of Myanmar citizen and abolishing the process of issuing National Verification Cards will also contribute to solving problems during the repatriation process.

On this solemn anniversary, the National Unity Government expressed again their commitment to the fundamental principles enshrined in the Federal Democratic Charter.

That includes fundamental human rights and human dignity as well as individual rights held by each person regardless of their ethnic origin and collective rights held by ethnic groups, and to the establishment of a Federal Democratic Union in which the violence committed against the Rohingya people will never be repeated.

The NUG said the same military responsible for those atrocities have perpetrated crimes against humanity and war crimes against people in Myanmar on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or political belief, especially people living in the ethnic areas over decades.

Since 1 February 2021, the entire people of Myanmar have been experiencing atrocities and violence, witnessed by the whole world through different media, , the statement reads.

The NUG said they are trying to cooperate with international judicial bodies and have lodged a declaration with the registrar of the International Criminal Court, accepting the Court's jurisdiction with respect to international crimes committed in Myanmar's territory since 1 July 2002, which is the earliest date permitted by the Statue of the International Criminal Court.

"We also accept the importance of addressing the root causes of the plight of Rohingya people in Rakhine State, taking into consideration the recommendations for possible solutions in the reports of relevant international bodies and directly from Rohingya communities.

The NUG said they firmly believe that establishment of the Federal Democratic Union, where all ethnic groups belonging to the union live together peacefully, will be the best solution for their country. "We have been attempting to achieve that goal together with all ethnic groups."

The NUG said they are deeply saddened by the horrendous violence, gross human rights violations and massive displacement that the Rohingya people suffered four years ago, resulting in hundreds of thousands fleeing their home and taking refuge in neighboring countries.

NUG's Inclusive Path Forward for Rohingyas

The United States has welcomed the inclusive path forward envisioned by the National Unity Government (NUG) and other pro-democracy groups in Myanmar and their pledge to reform the 1982 citizenship law.

The US also welcomed NUG-pledged other actions intended to protect the rights of Rohingya and members of other ethnic minority groups.

"These steps will be necessary to safeguard the human rights and human dignity of all people in Myanmar, including Rohingya," said Ned Price, Spokesperson at the US Department of State in a statement marking the fourth anniversary of the ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State.

The United States said they will continue to partner with the people of Myanmar to support peace and justice, critical humanitarian assistance, a return to the path to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The United States said they will continue to promote justice for victims and accountability for those responsible for atrocities and other human rights abuses.

"To that end, we have imposed visa restrictions and financial sanctions on top military leaders and units, including those linked to serious human rights abuse against Rohingya, and suppression of peaceful protests since the February 1 coup," Price said.

The US said they have also supported the UN fact finding and investigative mechanisms focused on Myanmar; and pressed Myanmar to implement the International Court of Justice's provisional measures order.

"We recognize that the Rohingya had already suffered decades of grave human rights abuses, and that many of those abuses continue today," said the Spokesperson.

The US remembered the victims and recommitted to pursuing and demanding accountability for those responsible for these atrocities and other human rights abuses, and seeking justice for victims.

The US recognized the need to address the root causes of this violence and hold perpetrators accountable to help prevent such atrocities from recurring.

Today, the same military leaders who perpetrated the February 1 coup are committing "abuses" against pro-democracy activists and members of ethnic and religious communities across the country.

"We have seen the same light infantry brigades that terrorized Rohingya communities in 2017 inflict brutal violence on pro-democracy protestors since the coup," said the Spokesperson.

The coup and the brutality of the military's subsequent crackdown have exacerbated the already precarious situation for vulnerable people across Myanmar, including Rohingya.

The United States continues to underscore the need for unhindered humanitarian access to all people requiring assistance in Myanmar.

At the launch of the 2021 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis in May, the United States announced nearly $155 million in new assistance to sustain critical efforts to support Rohingya refugees and members of the host communities in Bangladesh and internally displaced Rohingya and other affected people in Myanmar.

The US said their assistance will help meet the immediate needs of over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh, including women and children.

This new funding, which includes life-saving COVID assistance, brought US' total humanitarian aid for those affected by the crisis in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and elsewhere in the region, to more than $1.3 billion - including more than $1.1 billion in Bangladesh and more than $238 million in Myanmar - since August 2017.

"We encourage other members of the international community to likewise support peace building and social cohesion work in Rakhine State, and to contribute to the Joint Response Plan," Price said.

The world is concerned about the prevailing humanitarian needs within Afghanistan, and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, seeks support to ensure that all those requiring assistance are not forgotten. With the new crisis in Afghanistan, the international community should not forget the Rohingyas and the need for their safe and dignified repatriation to their place of origin in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

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