In the conundrum of refugee repatriation, the military coup on 1 February 2021 has given Myanmar politics a new shape further complicating the scope of repatriation. Myanmar is divided. On one side is the military regime and on the other is the National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s parallel government in hiding. They are fighting each other.
NUG’s “Policy Position on the Rohingya in Rakhine State” clarifies its understanding of “the violence and gross human rights violations inflicted upon Rohingyas by the thuggish military….the entire people of Burma is sympathetic to the plight of the Rohingya as all now experience atrocities and violence perpetrated by the military. Repatriation and Justice will be ensured in the future Federal Democratic Union Constitution”. The NUG also commits to actively seek justice and accountability for all crimes against Rohingyas and other communities.
The NUG also commits to change controversial Citizenship Law 1982. “The new Citizenship Act must base citizenship on birth in Myanmar or birth anywhere as a child of Myanmar citizen.” The NUG reaffirming to respect the agreement of repatriation process called upon Rohingyas to join hands with NUG and “participate in the Spring Revolution against the military regime in all possible ways”.
NUG’s policy on Rohingya has angered the military regime and Rakhine Buddhist community. After the NUG’s call to participate in the Spring Revolution, the regime suspects Rohingya for a possible collusion with NUG. The All Arakanese Solidarity Committee (AASC), community leaders and politicians and Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) mentioned in a statement that the NUG’s policy does not represent Rakhine people. Reactions to NUG’s policy statement reflect Rakhine people’s persistent hostile attitude toward Rohingya. However, UK-based Myanmar Rohingya Association Chairman U Tun Khin said, “I think Rakhine brothers have a little misunderstanding. We would like to hold talks with our Rakhine brothers as well as the NUG. This problem can be solved through negotiations between the NUG, Rakhine and Rohingya. I think Rakhine people will understand when the time comes.”
While the whole of Myanmar has risen against the military’s coup, the Rakhine has been quiet. The military regime has signed cease fire agreement with Arakan Army (AA) and delisted it from the list of terrorist group. The military regime on 9 June 2021 also acquitted ten people including the brother, sister and brother in law of AA Chief of terrorism charges. Rakhine Buddhist community welcomed the decision to drop AA from terror list. The quadrilateral alignment between China, the military regime, Rakhine Buddhist community and the AA has obscured refugee repatriation, at least in the near term. Lack of initiative from international communities in the East or West deepens the obscurity further.
* Mohammad Abdur Razzak is a retired Commodore of Bangladesh Navy. He can be reached at [email protected]