The failed Rohingya repatriation bid
The Financial Express editorial August 25, 2019
The latest bid to break the stalemate over repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar has failed. None of the families selected through interviews for repatriation turned up to board the vehicles that had been kept waiting. An environment of uncertainty loomed large over the repatriation bid since the very beginning. Yet all concerned had kept their fingers crossed. But, finally, their hopes were dashed as the lack of trust again emerged as the main barrier to starting the repatriation process.
The Rohingya reportedly stuck to their old and genuine demands, including citizenship, land ownership rights and full safety and security as preconditions for going back to Myanmar. In fact, the moot issue here is citizenship. Like the earlier one, the latest repatriation bid is being made without resolving the issues that are very important as far as the Rohingya are concerned. Rohingya people who have been subjected to extreme and inhuman oppression by the Myanmar authorities for long have no reasons to put faith in the words of the latter.
So, it is nothing surprising that the latest repatriation bid has failed. Myanmar has always been uninterested in resolving the Rohingya crisis that it has thrust upon Bangladesh. No amount of international pressure had worked on the Myanmar’s rigid stance. It is primarily because of mediation by China, Myanmar authorities, lately, have agreed to resume the repatriation process, that too, without bringing about any notable change in the ground situation. The Myanmar’s change of mood, thus, is more of an eye-wash in the face of mounting global pressure.
There is no denying that Bangladesh is desperately seeking a solution to the Rohingya problem which has been taking a heavy toll on its economy, environment and society. The world by and large has taken a strong stance on the issue and is holding Myanmar responsible for the crisis. Yet all the critics have kept confined their opposition to Myanmar atrocities to mere rhetoric and they have not taken any practical step to force that country to accede to the genuine demands of the persecuted Rohingya population.
Despite the crisis it has been facing, Bangladesh cannot force the Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar against their will. The Bangladesh government has always supported the genuine demands of the Rohingya and had basically allowed them to enter its own territory in the face of persecution. The failure of the latest repatriation bid shows that the Rohingya refugees do not trust the Myanmar government. So, the onus now lies with the latter to prove that it is sincere to take back the former. Mere verbal assurances would not help resolve the crisis. The Myanmar government would have to show the world and the Rohingya refugees in particular that it has done everything for safe return of the latter. But the track record of the Myanmar leadership does not make one hopeful about doing the needful in this respect. It is rather prone to indulging in deceitful acts to mislead the world. The UN organisations concerned must make the world aware of such activities carried out by Myanmar.
So, it is high time the world took a tough stance on Myanmar so that it listens to reasons and grants citizenship rights to the Rohingya people and ensures an environment conducive to their journey back home. A couple of its close neighbours who have strong links with Myanmar should also use their influence to help resolve this humanitarian crisis of an unprecedented scale.