Two and a half months have already passed since the Myanmar military seized the state power in a coup on 1 February.
As the time rolls on, protests against the junta government and bloodshed are intensifying.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has called a special summit to discuss the crisis in Myanmar.
Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing is going to attend the summit in Jakarta, Indonesia on 24 April. However, the National Unity Government led by the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) has urged the ASEAN not to recognise the Myanmar junta leader.
The ongoing crisis in Myanmar and the global reactions on the issue has made uncertain the repatriation of millions of Rohingya people to Myanmar from the cramped camps in Bangladesh while the burning issue is losing the international attention.
Given the turmoil situation on the backdrop of Rohingya crisis, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen said on 18 April that there would be no chance of discussion over the Rohingya repatriation until the Myanmar situation stabilises.
“As the military ruler is saying one thing and the National Unity Government led by NLD is saying another thing. The overall situation is turmoil there. Bangladesh wants stability in Myanmar for the sake of Rohingya repatriation," he told Prothom Alo.
Asked about the security threats due to instability in Myanmar, Masud Bin Momen said, “In case the crisis spreads to Rakhine state, a new influx of Rohingya may take place. This is a concern for us. We are no more in a position to shelter additional Rohingya people. Bangladesh is already overburdened with the existing Rohingya population."
On 23 November, 2017, representatives of Bangladesh and Myanmar inked an initial deal for the possible repatriation of Rohingya people sheltered in Bangladesh. The signing ceremony took place in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw.
Instead of preparing a congenial environment, the NLD-led Myanmar government scheduled repatriation of Rohingyas in two dates during 2018 and 2019. As the Rohingyas showed their unwillingness, the attempts were failed.
Experts on international relations and diplomacy think that Rohingya repatriation issue has lost international attention while the Myanmar junta-run coup, ousting the democratically elected NLD government-led by Aung San Suu Kyi, put Myanmar in crisis. Due to the protest against the military coup, there is little chance of improvement of the existing crisis in Myanmar. The protest has now spread outside Naypayidaw and Yangon, even across the separatists-dominated Shan, Kachin and Kayin States. In reality, there is little scope for proceeding with repatriation of Rohingya at present.
Continuation of the international supports to the sheltered Rohingya seems uncertain at the time when the possibility of Rohingya repatriation has been fading day by day.
Since August 2017, international development organisations have been supporting the Rohingya people sheltered in Bangladesh with humanitarian assistance under the joint response plan (JRP). In an UN-brokered convention held in Geneva, the donor organisations have made a promise of financial support. Bangladesh government is also contributing to the fund for JRP.
Between 2017 and 2020, some $2.29 billion was allocated for the JRP against the promise of around $3.43 billion, meaning that the development partners have allocated 67 per cent of their promise so far. In 2020, the development partners allocated 61 per cent of the promised $1.10 billion for the JRP.
Foreign affairs ministry officials have said that the 2021 JRP has sought $1 billion from the donor organisations. Due to some bargaining issues between Bangladesh and the United Nations, the final allocation has not yet finalised.
The officials express hope that the final allocation would be announced in May.
Md Shahidul Haque, former foreign secretary and senior fellow at the South Asian Institute of Policy and Governance under the North South University, recently told Prothom Alo, “Rohingya repatriation has lost international attention due to the ongoing Myanmar crisis. Hence, Bangladesh now needs to continue discussions with its all international friend states so that the issue regains the attention."
As a neighbouring country, Bangladesh must convince the ASEAN members that the continuation of Myanmar crisis as well as the delays in Rohingya repatriation would worsen the geopolitical stability in the entire region< Shahidul added.
*This report appeared in the online and print editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman