Nurul Islam Hasib, bdnews24.com
Published: 2019-08-25 00:05:24 BdST
Over 700,000 Rohingyas were driven out by a Myanmar military-led campaign launched on Aug 25 in 2017 with “genocidal intent” in the northern Rakhine State.
With them, Bangladesh is now home to over 1.1 million Rohingyas who are considered as stateless after Myanmar cancelled their citizenship following a constitutional amendment in 1982.
Efforts have been made twice to send them back with the latest on Aug 22. No Rohingyas showed up to go back home, raising the question about the future of the repatriation deal between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
International communities, particularly the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, still does not have “effective access” to the Rakhine State to work there.
“Why will they return? Did they (Myanmar) change anything,” asked Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations and Director of Centre for Genocide Studies, Dhaka University, while talking to bdnews24.com on Saturday.
Former Ambassador M Humayun Kabir also raised the question talking to bdnews24.coma day before the anniversary of the appalling event in the Rakhine State that shook the world.
“After two years, one thing is clear that Myanmar is not serious. It is playing diplomacy and politics still now. But how long will they do that? You cannot play one thing again and again,” Dr Ahmed said.
Myanmar took the new strategy of trying to start the repatriation without any structural reforms only to respond to the pressure they will face in the upcoming UN General Assembly, he said.
“Those who committed the genocide and drove them out are now calling them back. Why will they go back? They are not fools.”
“First of all they have to make structural changes. If they are citizens, then they can go back,” he said.
“One major change you can bring is the change of the law that will give them citizenship. They have to prove that Myanmar as a state has changed. So far we don’t see any symptoms of their change. I don’t think they are serious about repatriation.”
“They are not serious. We can say that because they did not bring any changes in the last two years”.
“That seriousness will come only when there will be massive international pressure. I think we have the role to play for this,” he said.
WHAT CAN BANGLADESH DO NOW?
Dr Ahmed said apart from Bangladesh, Rohingyas are living in 18 or 19 more countries, including neighbouring India, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, and even in Australia.
Bangladesh can take steps to organise a big international conference or setting up a commission with all these countries aboard, he said. “Because these countries must be concerned over the situation since they have to spend to feed them.”
“We have to work. We have to take steps inside the UN or outside the UN,” he said, adding that Bangladesh also needs to reach Myanmar nationals with their language.
“Myanmar people don’t know what we are saying. They know what their government is saying. We can have a Burmese language radio that they can hear so that they know what is happening and what is being discussed about them.”
He welcomed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visits to Brunei and China and said this kind of visit needs to increase.
“When they (Myanmar) will understand that pressure is coming from all sides, even those who are investing in their country, they will change,” he said, adding that Bangladesh can raise the issue with the Western countries who speak about human rights issues but also have investments in Myanmar, one of the biggest human rights violators.
“They’re not feeling pressure right now and they even staged a drama even. We need to be aware of that. Why will we fall into the trap,” he said, referring to the Aug 22 plan of return.
“When Myanmar said they would take the refugees back, the first thing we should have asked them is to take 10 journalists and 10 members of the Rohingya community to let them see the situation there.”
“We need to bring the change in that area,” he said, reiterating that a solution is possible if Myanmar gives them their citizenship back.
Ambassador Kabir said it’s a “very complex” thing and “there will be ups and downs and we have to accept that”.
“We have to overcome the frustrations after the Aug 22 plan. We have to think what kind of diplomatic efforts we can take to solve it. We have to consider all issues. Now we need to have a situation analysis and think how we can make it (diplomatic effort) more nuanced, focused and intensified”.
The refugees must have been shocked to know about the plan to repatriate “only” four days earlier, he said.
“We need to take some lessons from what we saw in the last two years to move forward,” the former ambassador said.
“We have to be more sensitive to the evolving situation and respond accordingly,” he said, adding that Bangladesh needs the support of everybody. “We cannot solve it alone. We need support, cooperation and engagement of everyone.”
Dr Ahmed gave Bangladesh’s own example. “We have been in India in 1971. If India had told us in midway, return to your homeland…would we come back? I think none would return. But after independence, all of us came back,” he said and added that if any basic structural change takes place in Myanmar, they will go back spontaneously.
“Then there will be no need for NGOs or no need for UNHCR,” the professor of international relations said.