We know that a meeting of the UN Security Council was held on 28 September to discuss the Rohingya crisis. At the beginning of his speech, the UN Secretary General praised Bangladesh for providing shelter to the Rohingyas.
In addition, he emphasised the implementation of the recommendations of the Annan Commission, which was formed by the Myanmar government. He also urged Myanmar to stop all kinds of torture on the Rohingyas as well as military operations in the Rakhine state. Condemning the violence against the Rohingyas, permanent member USA urged Myanmar to stop it. USA urged all UN member states to stop supplying weapons to Myanmar. The United States also urged Myanmar to ensure the immediate access of humanitarian assistance and to start repatriation of the Rohingya refugees. USA emphasised the issue of ensuring co-existence of all religions and communities in the Rakhine state.
Expressing deep concern over all forms of violence in Rakhine, permanent member China supported the Myanmar government’s efforts. Describing the Rohingya crisis as a complex issue, China also desired its long-term and effective solution. China emphasised the need of extensive bilateral talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh to resolve the crisis. According to China, the problem could be solved step by step. Another permanent member France emphasised the importance of ceasing the violence in Arakan as well as providing humanitarian assistance. France called for ending the existing discrimination between different communities in Arakan and prioritising implementation of the Annan Commission’s recommendations. France also urged Myanmar to allow the Fact Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council to work freely on the issue of racial segregation and human rights violations against Rohingyas.
Permanent member Russia expressed concern over the deterioration of the Rakhine situation and sympathised with the victims. They strongly criticised the terrorist activities of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. However, Russia insisted on implementation of the Annan Commission’s recommendations. In addition to emphasising the provision of humanitarian assistance including implementation of recommendations of the Annan Commission, non-permanent member Japan condemned the violence and terrorist activities in Rakhine.
Though the Security Council meeting ended without any resolution, but all member states emphasised the implementation of the Annan Commission’s recommendations and continued democratic transition in Myanmar. Since no resolution has been passed against Myanmar at the meeting, it remained unknown how far China or Russia would go for Myanmar that means the use of their veto in support of Myanmar. At this moment it is difficult to say what would be the decision or whether there would be any resolution at all or what would be the position of China and Russia if there is a meeting of the Security Council on Rohingya issue in near future.
Meanwhile, a few days after the Security Council meeting, a minister of Aung San Suu Kyi came to Dhaka. On 2 October, the Myanmar Minister had a meeting with the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh. In view of Myanmar’s desire in repatriating the Rohingyas, both sides agreed to form a joint working group to handle the entire repatriation process. For signing an agreement between the two countries, a draft from Bangladesh side was also handed over to Myanmar.
We know that China, at the Security Council, emphasised the importance of extensive bilateral talks between Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve Rohingya problem. If the visit of the Myanmar Minister was held following China’s advice, it would be clear within the next few days. On the otherhand, it would be a praiseworthy initiative to get out of Myanmar’s dogmatic attitude if this visit took place from the Myanmar government’s own feelings or thoughts. That is, a positive step towards crossing the Rohingya crisis. In this context, a question arises in my mind. The Myanmar Minister, who came to Bangladesh for discussion, is from Aung San Suu Kyi’s department. Did Aung San Suu Kyi send him to Bangladesh on her own will? Or, whether the Minister was sent with the approval of the military power behind? In the first case, it is easy to guess what the outcome would be. Because, we are not so optimistic whether Suu Kyi has any influence in decision making of the Myanmar government. If it happened due to the second reason, the Rohingya repatriation process is likely to be visible. But there remains a doubt, in how many days will the process begin or how?
It seems that the repatriation of Rohingyas would not be easy as Myanmar said. There are a lot of fears in thinking so. That’s why, we must be cautious about those things. First of all, they might try to delay the process of codification of Rohingya citizenship, and thus prolong the whole repatriation process. Secondly, they might agree only to take back the Rohingyas came to Bangladesh from October last year, not the Rohingyas who came before. Thirdly, the Rohingyas will return without citizenship or with promise of citizenship, but they might not be given citizenship once they return. If this happens, the Rohingyas could easily be ousted from their homes at any time. Fourthly, instead of taking back the Rohingyas to their own home, they might rehabilate them somewhere else in the name of ‘Safe Zone’. The possible purpose behind this may be to deprive them of their own land, which they are inheriting for hundreds of years. That means this act can be an easy way to destroy the important evidence of citizenship. Fifthly, the world’s conscientious people are protesting to stop all violent activities, such as murder, rape, and burning, of the Myanmar army and their collaborators in Arakan. Many leaders and humanists of the world have already termed these activities as ‘ethnic cleansing’ or ‘genocide’. Assuming the incoming consequences of this, Myanmar might agree to take back the Rohingyas at this moment so that it does not have any problems in future. In that case, Myanmar would try to bring the world’s attention back to repatriation and would follow ‘slow diplomacy’ in this matter.
One cannot avoid the doubt about the repatriation of the Rohingyas. The Myanmar Minister came to Dhaka and showed interest in taking the Rohingyas back, while still the Rohingyas are coming to Bangladesh. The burning of houses is still on in Rakhine, violence has not been stopped at all. The question that can arise in the wake of this – is Myanmar really honest to take back the Rohingyas? Is this something to stop the pressure of the world community? It is felt as the history of Myanmar in the past was not very pleasant. One cannot ignore the possibility of hanging the whole process just after return of few Rohingyas.
Myanmar’s reaction will be known after examining the draft provided by Bangladesh, and the final agreement might be signed after discussions between the two countries. Afterwards, the repatriation process might start. However, how much time it might take to start the repatriation process depends on the wishes and sincerity of the two countries, especially Myanmar. It may take two months, or it may cross twelve months.
Everyone would agree, on one issue, that the Rohingya crisis could not be solved militarily but through diplomatic negotiations. In addition to bilateral, multilateral diplomacy should be continued to put continuous pressure on Myanmar. Since this problem has been happening repeatedly for a long time, so to ensure the repetition in future, everyone will have to work for a permanent, safe and sustainable solution. In that sense, the 5-point proposal of our Hon’ble Prime Minister at the United Nations General Assembly, the recommendations of the Anan Commission and the involvement of concerned UN agencies would play important role to complete the repatriation process smoothly. It is expected that the upcoming repatriation process would ensure the safe and secured stay of the Rohingyas in their own home as the citizens of Myanmar.
The writer is a former ambassador and secretary.