Why Rohingyas now want to return to their homeland Myanmar from Bangladesh?

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A Rohingya refugee from Myanmar holds a sign during a protest against the disputed repatriation program at the Unchiprang refugee camp near Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar district, in southeastern Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2018.

by Harunur Rasid     13 June 2023

It has been discussed time and again that Myanmar has given only words of hope for a logical solution to the Rohingya crisis, but nothing has been done. Apart from this, Rohingyas will be repatriated in stages – such assurance was given to Bangladesh. But it never saw the light of day. According to the news published recently in the newspaper, the Rohingyas have gathered in different camps of Cox’s Bazar to demand return to their oppressed homeland Myanmar. At that time, they also alleged that there is a conspiracy against repatriation. According to information, at least 13 shelter camps sheltered in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar, Rohingyas formed a human chain and took part in the rally around 10 am on Thursday. In this case, the concerned parties need to be taken into consideration, the Rohingyas held this rally in the middle of the talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar and the visit of the representatives of the two countries and various measures.

We want to say that when the Rohingya leaders complain that one side of the talks between the two countries is conspiring to stop repatriation – it is the duty of those concerned to take this matter into consideration and take initiatives subject to monitoring the situation. Apart from this, the speakers in the rally said that they desperately want to return to their country and go to their home. On the other hand, the Rohingya leaders also called for the success of the ongoing talks between the two countries for repatriation. We think that the things said by the Rohingya leader in the rally should be looked into, and effective initiatives should be continued taking into account the overall situation regarding repatriation.

Note that Bangladesh sent a list of 888,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar in 2018 for the purpose of repatriating Rohingya. Then a return list of 68,000 Rohingyas was sent by Myanmar. In January 2022, 1,140 people were initially selected from that list for family-based repatriation as part of a pilot project. Of these, Myanmar agreed to repatriate 711 Rohingyas, but objected to the remaining 429. When the repatriation issue was largely overshadowed after China’s last attempt to repatriate the Rohingyas failed nearly five and a half years ago, many assumed there would be no progress on repatriating the Rohingya to Myanmar. However, in April of this year, the third phase of the initiative was suddenly started again with the mediation of China. A tripartite meeting between Bangladesh, Myanmar and China was also held in Kunming, China. In addition, in April, a Myanmar delegation came to Cox’s Bazar and returned after interviewing the remaining 429 Rohingyas on the previous list. After that, a delegation of Rohingya also returned to the country after observing the situation in Rakhine. It was only then that the Rohingya repatriation gained momentum.

We think that when the Rohingyas rallied between the talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar on repatriation and the visit of the representatives of the two countries and various measures, and the Rohingya leaders are saying that one side of the talks between the two countries is conspiring to stop the repatriation – then the situation should be monitored keeping this in mind. At the same time, taking into account the overall situation regarding repatriation, appropriate initiatives should be continued.

Above all, we want to say, how long the Rohingyas will have to bear the pressure in Bangladesh, which is populated by more than 170 million Bangladeshi citizens – this question is not unreasonable. Giving asylum to Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds does not mean that they have to be kept forever. It is now a big burden for Bangladesh. Bangladesh wants them to be taken back with full rights as citizens under fair and beautiful management. As a result, it is our hope that the necessary initiatives will continue to make the Rohingya repatriation, which has become a burden for Bangladesh, successful and the repatriation process will see the light of day.

The Rohingyas from Rakhine took refuge in Bangladesh about six years ago after being persecuted, tortured and killed by the Myanmar government. Showing humanity, the Bangladesh government sheltered the Rohingyas in Ukhia and Teknaf. It also arranges their living in cooperation with various international organizations. The United States and influential countries including the United Nations have imposed various sanctions, starting from the condemnation of the Myanmar government, in protest against the persecution and expulsion of the Rohingya. The Myanmar government did not pay much attention to these. No sincere interest has been shown in taking back the Rohingyas. The Government of Bangladesh has held discussions with the Government of Myanmar in many ways. That didn’t work much either. We have always said that if China takes the initiative sincerely, then the return of Rohingyas to their country can be much easier. If India joins it, it will get more momentum. In the beginning, China did not show much interest in this matter, but now its activity is being noticed, which is hopeful. Has adopted a lot of silence. Did not give any statement other than some diplomatic talk.

In 2017, when Myanmar’s army started a crackdown on the Rohingyas, about seven and a half million Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh. This number is now around ten lakh. At that time there was a storm of uproar and condemnation around the world. The Myanmar military junta has been sued at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for killing and torturing the Rohingya and at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for genocide. China acted as a mediator in the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar. In January 2022, the initiative to start the repatriation of Rohingya was taken through his intervention. Then a list of 8 lakh Rohingyas from Bangladesh was sent to Myanmar for repatriation. Out of this, 1140 Rohingyas were included in the first phase under the pilot project. Myanmar agrees to repatriate 711 Rohingya. Myanmar had objections to the remaining 429. Following the demands of the Bangladesh government, a delegation from Myanmar visited Teknaf in March this year to collect data on 429 Rohingyas as well as 51 children born to their families. A delegation of 20 Rohingyas was shown the situation in Rakhine on May 5 to gain their trust. It can be said that a slow process of Rohingya repatriation is going on. At one time, the expelled Rohingyas refused to return to their country considering their security. Hopefully, now the Rohingyas want to return to their country. Last Thursday morning, hundreds of Rohingya men and women formed a human chain at the Kutupalong shelter camp in Ukhia by the ‘Go Home’ campaign to return to their country. Besides, they campaigned to return to the country in various camps. The Rohingya leaders in the human chain raised four demands, including citizenship, resettlement in their ancestral homes in Rakhine, freedom of movement and the return of looted assets and lands. This interest of Rohingyas to return to their country is very positive. Needless to say, no matter how many facilities are offered abroad, everyone wants to return home at some point. Citizens want to move freely. They are realizing that the Rohingyas are a burden for Bangladesh. Bangladesh has to get enough momentum to support them. Not only population growth, economic pressure, social problems, law and order also created a kind of risk.

As a neighbor, Bangladesh has good relations with Myanmar. The two countries are related in various bilateral matters starting from trade. Among them, the Rohingya repatriation issue is thorny. Myanmar has created this problem. Bangladesh has nothing to do with it. Rather, it has become a crisis for him. As a result, it is important to solve this problem quickly. Bangladesh needs to take faster, more dynamic and stronger diplomatic initiatives to repatriate Rohingyas. In this regard, effective steps should be taken in order for China to be more active. If the international community, including China, cooperates effectively and wholeheartedly, it will not take much time to resolve the complications related to the repatriation of the Rohingyas. In order to make the return of the Rohingyas easy and smooth, it should be ensured that they get citizenship and other privileges and rights in their own country as per their demands.