Rohingyas are here, in various shelter houses in Cox’s Bazar area of Bangladesh. They are the citizens of Myanmar who were forced to leave their ancestors’ land. Bangladesh has provided them shelter, but how long? They should be repatriated to their own country Myanmar. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has already been signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar for their repatriation. We had two meetings of the Joint Working Group (JWG) and the third one is going to be held in Dhaka in the last week of October. However, we have not witnessed any single Rohingya, who has so far returned to Myanmar under this mechanism. Though we are hopeful, but not convinced that Myanmar would start repatriation soon after the ensuing JWG meeting.
I would like to refer here some of the recent events that might help us to understand the latest position of the Rohingya crisis. In fact, two important issues have clearly been raised by the world community, including the UN, concerning this crisis. One is the safe repatriation and secured rehabilitation of all Rohingyas recognising as the citizens of Myanmar. The other one is the charges for atrocities, like genocide, against Myanmar military.During his two-day visit to Myanmar, British Foreign Minister Jeremy Richard Hunt had a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi on 20 September 2018. That meeting was held after his return from a ‘tightly-managed tour’ to Rakhine state. Though everything was organised by the Myanmar government, but the situation there made him convinced to call for justice on the Rohingya issue. He said, “Burma needs to know the international community won’t let it rest.”
Around that time, UN investigation team released a report detailing why six Myanmar generals should be prosecuted for genocide. The report used, at least, 51 times of ‘genocide’, 69 times ‘crimes against humanity’ and 25 times ‘war crimes’. The team has earlier published a brief report in August. The suggested recommendations of the team are to- (1) Frame a judicial structure for the human rights violators of Myanmar; (2) Collect and preserve information and proofs about criminals, and prepare case files; (3) Provide further assistance to the Office of Human Rights High Commissioner; (4) Raise funds for the victims of human rights violations and (5) Increase the tenure of the investigation team. According to the UN team leader Marzuki Darusman, it is not an isolated incident, but is a well planned attack against ethnic minority, just a massacre. Undoubtedly, the incident has fulfilled all conditions of ‘Genocide’, as defined in the concerned UN Convention.
Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in her speech at the 73rd UNGA has highlighted this issue including three recommendations. She said that several bilateral meetings have taken place between the two countries, but Myanmar, despite its verbal commitment, has not yet take back its nationals. She rightly pointed out that Myanmar has created the crisis and the solution is there. Terming the incident as genocide, she recalled the genocide committed by Pakistani army in 1971 during our War of Independence. She also expressed her deep appreciation for the supports the international community has extended for the Rohingyas staying in Bangladesh.
The three recommendations placed by our Prime Minister were: (1) Abolition of discriminatory laws, policies and practices of Myanmar against the minority group. (2) Myanmar must create conducive environment by building trust and guaranteeing protection, rights and pathways to citizenship for the Rohingyas. If necessary, Myanmar will create ‘safe zone’ in the country for protection of its citizens and (3) Crimes against Rohingyas should be prevented by bringing accountability and justice, particularly in light of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council. Truly speaking, these three recommendations are what the world community feels the ultimate destination of the crisis.
Defining the Rohingya crisis as the most terrific problem he has ever seen, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged all to cooperate Bangladesh to face the crisis as well as to put pressure on Myanmar. He said this while addressing the conference on 'Global Challenges, Global Solutions' held in New Delhi in the first week of this month. He emphasised that Rohingyas should be given the assurance of going back to their homes and getting normal rights. And the most important thing is their citizenship. Expressing his deep concern on extremism, the UN Secretary General said that the delicate and undisclosed status of the Rohingyas might give the terrorists the opportunity to drag them into their group. He cautioned that if this crisis is not resolved, not only Bangladesh or Myanmar, the whole region will be a safe home for terrorists.
Mr. Guterres asked India to cooperate Bangladesh, make pressure on Myanmar, especially its military and invest there in the infrastructure sector so that an environment creates for repatriation of the Rohingyas. He also expressed his hope that India can create all possible pressures considering its relationship with Myanmar. India, China and others can pressurise Myanmar collectively to create an environment so that the Rohingyas can return to their home. In response to a question on imposition of UN sanction on Myanmar, the UN Secretary General said that there should be accountability of such crimes. Regarding International Criminal Court (ICC), he said that what has happened to the Rohingyas is incredible.Till now, Myanmar has not showed any sincerity and honesty to take back its citizens, and that has rightly been pointed out by our Prime Minister at the UNGA. Even there is no progress in the implementation of the agreed repatriation process. Myanmar has always been trying to play other games intentionally, though it denies in every case. The recent examples are the violation of our airspace by Myanmar and the inclusion of St. Martin in Myanmar’s map. Might be, they are trying to divert our attention or provoking us for something else. However, Bangladesh has been handling all these odds diplomatically maintaining its bilateral relations normal.
In the international sector, Bangladesh has been playing a praiseworthy role. The world community, including the UN, has highly appreciated Bangladesh, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for providing shelter to the Rohingyas and has stood beside Bangladesh, by extending their all out supports and cooperation. India’s role on Rohingya issue has changed a lot. We can see India’s active involvement in this crisis, both in Bangladesh and Myanmar. China, a permanent member of the Security Council, has been emphasising the settlement of the crisis bilaterally. But, as said by the UN Secretary General, China should put required pressure on Myanmar to expedite the repatriation process. In fact, Chinese initiative can only produce a quick solution of the problem. We strongly believe that our government has been using its various tools to convince China in this line.
The ‘Genocide’ issue has already taken its position and might put Myanmar in a more difficult situation. Though Myanmar thinks that it is not a party of the concerned UN Convention on Genocide and ICC has nothing to do against the country, but the Article VII of the Convention says that any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III. The government of Myanmar, at this moment, feels that China and Russia, the two permanent members of the UN Security Council, are with them and save them. In politics, whether national or international, nobody knows what would happen and when. Perhaps, Myanmar does not want to understand that.
We do not know the outcomes of the Joint Working Group’s meeting to be held in Dhaka end this month. We are confident that Bangladesh side will put their best efforts in the meeting so that the repatriation process starts immediately. But, the repatriation should ensure the safety and dignity of the Rohingyas. In any way, we have to keep in mind Myanmar’s game of deceptions. Myanmar might agree to begin the repatriation with a small number and after returning of one or two groups, it might start dilly-dallying. However, it’s true that Myanmar is under heavy international pressure and the pressure might increase in the days ahead. Myanmar should realise that and take back the Rohingyas before imposition of any sanction or facing the ICC for genocide.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary