On 23 November 2017, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a Memorandum of Understanding on repatriation of the Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh. According to the memorandum, a joint working group was supposed to be formed in three weeks time, but it has not yet been formed though three weeks have already passed.
And for that reason, the process of repatriation might not be started within two months as scheduled.
This clearly indicates the lack of Myanmar's sincerity and good will in taking back the Rohingyas. They might have taken such strategy to handle the ongoing international pressure. But, by doing so, will Myanmar keep hanging this issue forever? They had done this before, now they would do this again. I do not know how long we should trust them.
Analysis of the present situation predicts that the Myanmar government has no plan or intention to take back the Rohingyas. When people from all over the world are raising their voices against the violence in Rakhine, Myanmar's military-backed government has been continuing killing, rape, and burning of houses of the Rohingyas. In fact, they have promised to eradicate Rohingya community from the soil of Myanmar. Sometimes I ask myself, is not there a single person with humanity among the millions of people in Myanmar? To stop the Rohingya massacre, is not there a humanitarian voice in the whole country to protest? How can we put them under human definition?
Since 1962, the rule of the armed forces has not only destroyed the country's democratic structure, it has erased the human ideology existed in every citizen. Thus, the undemocratic military forces were able to rule the country for a long time. The military leaders have successfully managed the system that no one can ever think of protesting. It’s a pity for the people of Myanmar! How can these people be classified under human identity? Even, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate, who struggled to bring back democratic rule in Myanmar and had world support, has finally painted her hands with the blood of her own people Rohingyas. Then how can we blame the general people? Their spinal cord was pierced by military rule for more than fifty years. They do not have the courage to protest against any injustice, they cannot even to think such. They are walking in the same way as the military junta likes to.
On 12 December, the Rohingya issue was also raised at the bilateral meeting held between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and French President Emanuel Macron. France has assured humanitarian support in addition to other cooperation for a permanent solution of the Rohingya crisis. At that time the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has requested the international community to continue their pressure on Myanmar.
Otherwise, as expressed by Sheikh Hasina, there remains doubt in the implementation of the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries. There is considerable reason behind this fear of the Hon’ble Prime Minister. She is not only worried, we are all afraid of this.
After signing of the memorandum, we were certainly expecting that Rohingyas would not be forced anymore to leave their homesteads. That is to say, eviction and deportation of Rohingyas would stop. But our hopes were buried in the sand. Rohingyas are still coming to Bangladesh, almost every day. How do we believe the Government of Myanmar? After reaching an agreement, Myanmar is not showing the least respect. The military-backed Government does not care at all the international norms and courtesies. If Myanmar does not want to resolve the Rohingya crisis, does anyone possess the power to force them? I think we have to think some alternatives, tougher. We have to go with world community in putting unrestrained international and regional pressure to force Myanmar. Steps should be taken through utilising all probable tools or means to create pressure on Myanmar, such as imposing restrictions or sanctions, filing case in the international court for ethnic cleansing and genocide, etc. Of course, we should keep in mind China's role in this regard, and if necessary we will have to take measures at the highest level to convince China.
We know that Rohingya crisis could not be solved sidelining China.
Meanwhile, on 12 December, members of the European Parliament have called for a ban on Myanmar to put pressure in resolving the Rohingya crisis. They have also demanded the trial of the military and civilians in the International Court for their atrocities on the Rohingya population. The members have termed the killing of Rohingyas as 'genocide'. They have agreed on 12 proposals including strong condemnation for the violence committed in Rakhine; deep concern for killing, sexual assault, property destruction, etc by the armed forces; praising Bangladesh for providing shelter to Rohingyas; free access of officials of the United Nations and its various organs as well as NGOs to Myanmar; investigation of human rights violations and sexual violence; arrangement for trial of the guilty; provide free access and security to the media workers; implementation of the agreement recently signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh on repatriation of the Rohingyas; creation of a favourable environment for repatriation of Rohingyas in their own land; etc.
Although the Security Council, so far, could not take any resolution against Myanmar due to China and Russia, but the ongoing activities of the Council are commendable. The proposal of the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly is likely to be passed in the coming plenary. In that case, how much will it be possible to apply it on Myanmar is a million dollar question. If it does not work, the United Nations would tell what will happen afterwards.
This is so much of the thing that, in fact, everyone is pressing Myanmar. Yet Myanmar has not stopped Rohingya eradication. We have signed an MoU for repatriation of the Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh. This is certainly a commendable step taken by the present government. However, if its implementation is prolonged, we will have to think about the problems there after, especially the security and environmental threats, Bangladesh will face. Otherwise, Myanmar might put us in new danger.
There is no doubt that Myanmar will continue to try to keep the Rohingya repatriation process hanged using various tricks and deceptions. We have to be cautious about their deceit. They have to end such activities. Therefore, the repatriation of Rohingyas will have to start at the earliest and finish, as per the agreement signed between the two countries. Rohingyas would return soon to their ancestors’ home and live there with dignity and safety as the citizens of Myanmar - this is our only expectation.
The writer is a former Ambassador