Tokyo, Beijing seek early repatriation

Former UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has called for a political solution to the Rohingya crisis allowing them to return to their places of origin in Rakhine State "freely and safely".

"There should be a political solution," said the former UN chief who made a brief two-day visit on November 22-23, the second visit to Bangladesh this year, after leaving the United Nations.

Ban appreciated Bangladesh's role for sheltering over 1.1 million Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar camps and sought continued support for Rohingyas from UN agencies, humanitarian organisations and other non-government organisations.

He said he is very much grateful for the humanitarian support and assistance extended by Bangladesh people and government to Rohingyas saying Bangladesh cannot deal with it alone.

The former UN chief said the Rohingya issue is one of the "very sad and tragic" situations and he has been urging Myanmar government to take steps "more compassionately" and support those Rohingyas.

"It was hard to describe...I was so sad," he said, sharing his experience of visiting Rohingya camps last time.

Ban said though Bangladesh government is in close consultation with the Myanmar government, there should be a political solution to the crisis.

He said the Myanmar government should take much more generous and compassionate efforts for Rohingyas.

Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them entered Cox's Bazar since August 25, 2017 amid a military crackdown on Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

Not a single Rohingya was repatriated over the last two years due to Myanmar's "failure" to build confidence among Rohingyas and lack of conducive environment in Rakhine State, officials here said.

Bangladesh has so far handed over names of over 1 lakh Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities for verification and subsequently expediting their repatriation efforts but Myanmar is yet to take back its nationals from Bangladesh.

Tokyo Remains Engaged

Japan has reiterated its support for early repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Myanmar's Rakhine state with conducive environment in place saying the international community needs to support the process.

"Bangladesh, UN agencies and other international organisations and donor agencies are working very closely to provide humanitarian support to those displaced people," said Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh Naoki Ito.

The Japanese envoy made the remarks while addressing as the chief guest at a function jointly organised by Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Rotary International District 3281 Bangladesh at BIISS auditorium on November 26.

Former Chief of General Staff, Bangladesh Army Lt Gen (retd) Md Mainul Islam made a presentation on 'United Nations Peacekeeping Operations' while Dhaka University's International Relations Department Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed made separate presentation on 'Bangladesh and World peace' at the commemorative seminar on 'International Day of Peace 2019' and launching of a book titled 'Bangladesh in International Peacebuilding: Discourses from Japan and Beyond.'

BIISS Director General Maj Gen AKM Abdur Rahman, chief of Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Monirul Islam, past President of Rotary Club of Ramna Air Cdre (Retd) Ishfaq Ilahi Choudhury and District Governor RID 3281 Bangladesh M Khairul Alam, among others, spoke at the event.

Referring to Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's remarks at the recently held East Asia Summit (EAS), Ambassador Ito said the international community should continue to support the early repatriation of displaced persons, along with continuing its support to Bangladesh.

"He (Prime Minister Abe) also expressed his expectation that the Myanmar government and military authorities will take appropriate measures regarding alleged human rights violations," said the Japanese Ambassador.

Beijing Acts

On November 24, Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming said China, utilising its traditional friendship with Bangladesh and Myanmar, will do whatever they can to help alleviate the Rohingya crisis and push forward their "early" repatriation.

"The most important [thing is] China acts. China has been keen to conduct various activities to push forward repatriation," he said making it clear that China has no right to 'lecture' Myanmar what to do except making suggestions and conveying messages.

Terming Myanmar and Bangladesh sovereign countries, the Ambassador said all the diplomatic activities of China are done following the principle of equality and mutual respect.

The Chinese Ambassador was addressing a seminar titled "Finding way to Peaceful Repatriation of Rohingyas" at the Jatiya Press Club.

Exaggerated and Misinterpreted

The Ambassador said due to "unreasonably" high expectations, and "maneuvers done by players with ulterior motives" China's role has been, to some extent, "exaggerated and misinterpreted".

He said it is a well-accepted idea in many countries that China has a huge influence over Myanmar, and Myanmar will listen whatever they say and do accordingly.

"This idea easily results in the belief that China is always on the side of Myanmar for economic interests and won't really help Bangladesh," said Ambassador Jiming said adding that what he and his colleague in Yangon Ambassador Chen Hai have been doing is to convey messages and make suggestions.

He said they have never forced the two sides to do anything that they do not want to. "As a friend in the middle of two neighbours who are troubled by one certain issue, China knows where the boundary of mediation lies and who the major players are."

Tripartite Engagement

During the third informal meeting between the three countries in New York this September, Ambassador Jiming said three important decisions were taken on the Rohingya issue.

First, he said, it is the political will and consensus of the three sides that repatriation must be started as early as possible.

Second, the envoy said, a Joint Working Mechanism will be established to delve into the technical issues of repatriation under the political guidance of three Foreign Ministers.

And third, Jiming said, promoting development is a fundamental solution, and border cooperation among China, Bangladesh and Myanmar should be strengthened to create an environment conducive to stability and development in the area.

The Ambassador said the State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi also announced that China would deploy a medical team and encourage charity organisations in Cox's Bazar to help the people in need.

To implement the 'consensuses', Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh, Director General (DG-Myanmar Wing) of Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ambassador himself have been in touch with each other in the past two months.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to China in July this year, President Xi mentioned to her that China appreciates Bangladesh's generosity to shelter the displaced people, and will support all the parties concerned to handle the issue properly through friendly negotiations.

The Ambassador said China will not favour one side over the other. "China is trying to persuade Myanmar all the time that the eventual solution to the Rohingya issue will be beneficial to both countries and, I believe, the Rohingya issue will be settled in the end."

Back in November 2017, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Bangladesh and Myanmar to mediate between the two neighbours and came up with a three-phased solution -- "cessation of violence, repatriation, and development"-- which serves as an important roadmap for the repatriation process.

In June and September 2018 and in September this year, Sate Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired three rounds of informal meetings among China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, charting the course of action more clearly each time than before.

Explaining how China contributes, the envoy said China has been contributing to solving the Rohingya issue in many ways.

Rejecting baseless accusation, falsification and misrepresentation of the facts over the Rohingya repatriation, Bangladesh said the government of Myanmar must stop such concocted campaign.

Bangladesh urged Myanmar to concentrate on the fulfillment of its obligations so that the forcibly displaced Rohingyas could return home in a "safe, dignified and voluntary" manner.

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