Rohingya repatriation likely to begin amid China intervention

Diplomatic Correspondent . Dhaka | Update:

Rohingya refugee. File PhotoMyanmar and Bangladesh are all set to give Rohingya repatriation another try, nearly a year after a major attempt failed. This time the move has been initiated by China and if everything works out the process might start on 22 August, say diplomatic sources.

The Rohingyas, who fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state amid army atrocities, however, are unwilling to return to Myanmar before their citizenship issue is resolved.

Foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque did not say anything when asked whether it is possible to send back the first team of Rohingyas.

Diplomatic sources say the foreign ministry handed over a list of about 3500 Rohingyas to UNHCR on 8 August, as part of the repatriation process.

According to a clause of an agreement with the United Nations (UN), UNHCR is responsible to talk with Rohingyas about their willingness to return home.

The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to go back on 15 November last year, following an announcement from both the countries, but the process was stalled amid unwillingness of Rohingyas to return for lack of a congenial environment in the Rakhine state.

According to information gotten from different Myanmar sources, the conflict between the separatists Arakan Army and the Myanmar army continue in 11 districts among the 17 Rakhine districts.

Meanwhile, Australian media have reported different satellite images prove there was no sign of rebuilding the area from where the Rohingyas were displaced.

Speaking on whether the repatriation is possible or not in such a situation, especially before marking the two years of Rohingya flow, Bangladeshi diplomats said both the countries are taking preparation for Rohingya repatriation because of China.

They said China is in consultation with both the countries as security and different other issues need to be addressed in the region. Myanmar is also under international pressure.

Bangladesh is now hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas in the Cox’s Bazar district and most of them have entered Bangladesh since 25 August 2017 amid military crackdown against them in the Rakhine state.

Foreign ministry officials said Bangladesh has so far handed over names of around 55,000 Rohingyas to the Myanmar authorities.

A total of 3,540 refugees have been cleared for return by Myanmar from the latest list of more than 22,000 names recently sent by Bangladesh.

A part of the government is eagerly trying to start the Rohingya repatriation since Bangladesh prime minister’s China visit last July. The Chinese officials during the visit also said that Myanmar will not take them back if Bangladesh starts talking about the citizenship of Rohingyas. China sees it as an internal matter of Myanmar.

A three-member Chinese delegation led by Chinese foreign ministry’s Asia division director U Zinghau visited Bangladesh on 24-25 July following PM Sheikh Hasina’s China visit.

The Chinese officials stressed starting the repatriation procedure indicating that 2,000 houses have been constructed in Rakhine for the Rohingyas.

During a meeting with the Bangladesh foreign ministry officials, U Zinhuau said China has asked Myanmar to make the atmosphere of Rakhine favorable for the Rohingyas to return. The Chinese officials at that time suggested starting the repatriation process from mid-August.

“Rohingya repatriation should start. It will be better to understand Myanmar’s plan of action”, said former Ambassador to China and chairman of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies Munshi Faiz Ahmad on Saturday.

The repatriation will not last if the Rohingyas face the same atrocity on their return and international quarters should be vigilant to ensure things go smooth, he added.

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