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Repatriation of Rohingya remains uncertain

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14th-Nov-2017       
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Mohammad Amjad Hossain :
Since latest atrocities on Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State of Myanmar by security and armed forces on 25 August of this year on the pretext of attacking by so-called Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on security posts in Rakhine State killing six police officers and one soldier more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar on foot or by ferry boats to neighboring country of Bangladesh to seek asylum. Until 25 August it was not known about existence of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
Following criticism from international community on the atrocities of stateless Rohingya minority community of Myanmar by armed forces there has been concern in the administration of de facto leader of Myanma Aung San Suu Kyi who dispatched a delegation led by a Minister Kyaw Tint Swe to Bangladesh on 2 October to discuss ways to find out modus operandi for repatriation of Myanmar Rohingya from Bangladesh. Bangladesh delegation was led by Foreign Minister A.H.Mahmood Ali who was assisted by Home Minister Ashaduzzaman Khan who had been to Myanmar recently to discuss about repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar. Memorandum of Understanding was signed on border liaison posts following talks in Naypyidaw. As of now both government did not succeed to form a joint working group for repatriation of Rohingya.
The discloser by Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh and Home Minister as well that no positive response came from Myanmar authority as of now for repatriation. That reflects diplomacy played by Bangladesh government does not have desired effect as of now.
Meanwhile, there are two contradictory reports emanated from Myanmar and Bangladesh. A spokesman Zaw Htay, Director-General in the office of de facto Myanmar leader, is reported to have commented by saying "Myanmar was ready to begin the repatriation process any time based on along the lines an agreement that covered returns of Rohingya to Myanmar in early of 1990's. We are now afraid of delaying the programme of deporting the refugees since currently they have got $ 400 million as international subsidies". The government of Bangladesh retorted by issuing a statement on 1st November saying Myanmar has not agreed to ten points put forward by its Ministry at last week's talks, including implementation of recommendation of an advisory commission on Rakhine State for a sustainable return. While Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali briefing foreign diplomats in Dhaka has stated that no response has been received to the draft proposal to Myanmar government for repatriation of Rohingya. Bangladesh government was not in agreement with 1992 agreement signed with Myanmar military regime for repatriation of 236599. The present draft is at variation to that of 1992.United Nations in fact raised $ 345 million in Geneva in last part of October this year to help Rohingya.
On the other hand, having swallowed huge criticism from around the world except China, Russia, Japan and India de facto leader and Foreign Minister of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi visited devastating Rakhine state on 1st of November for the first time to see the conditions and has spoken to remaining Rohingya against the backdrop of scathing attack in Mandalay by a group of nationalistic, openly hostile monks such as Thu Sait with his hateful speeches suggested" to bring a law to protect race and religion. That was necessary because the Muslims are multiplying rapidly." Aung San Suu Kyi is stated that Rohingya would be taken back if they produce document of staying in Rakhine State. According to Salil Tripathi, Chairman of the Writer-in-prison committee of PEN International who covers extensively for Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review and the New Statesman and India Today, global opinion has turned sour. From being an inspiring idol whose struggle; stirred global consciences, Suu Kyi is now seen as a papier-Mache mask giving the General who had once jailed her - credibility.
Historically, Tatmadaw was formed in collaboration of Imperial Japanese army during 1942 to 1945 when Burma was occupied by Japan and had assisted formation of Tatmadaw Independence Army to become independence from the British while Aung San, father of Suu Kyi, had formed ant-fascist organization in 1945 and sought help of the Bristish to drive out Japanese and finally won independence in cooperation with the British in 1948. During second world war Rohingya extended support to the British while Burmese nationalists supported Japanese. Seed of animosity planted during second world war between Rohingya and Burmese nationalists. However, the British did not keep their reported promise of a separate state for Rohingya. Burmese military has been continuously applying and using all tactics, strategist of fascist Imperial Japanese until now. Historically, Chittagong was occupied by King Min Bin of Arakan from 1546 to 1547 while Mughal took back in 1660 from Arakan King.
Rohingya minority community in Myanmar are in fact admixture of early Arab, Persian, Turks and Mughals traders but populations reportedly had been driven back and forth from Arakan several times since 1700's to Chittagong in particular of Bengal. Arakan old coin dated back to 15 centuries minted by Shams al-Din Ghazi, Sultan of Bengal. During Bristish colonial rule of Burma from 1824 to 1948 many Muslims in what now India and Bangladesh relocated to Burma to work and absorbed into the Rohingya. The language of Rohingya is close to Chittagonian dialect which this writer does not understand when faced with exodus of Rohingya in Cox's Bazar camps in 1992 while on a visit with newly recruited foreign service officers.  
The capital of Rakhine state Sittwe, is now having deep sea port being built with the help of Indian government and the area is set for economic growth while China, another county bordering with Myanmar, a transnational pipe line is built by China National Petroleum Company connecting Sittwe to Kunming of China. Japan, on the other hand, has invested in Myanmar designed to upgrade infrastructure there to contain Chinese influence on Myanmar. Being largest donor country Japan in fact exempted hundred billion of Yen worth of debt to Myanmar in the face of democratic process since first and fair election on 8 November of 2015.
Having seen reports of atrocities Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intends to visit devastated areas of Rakhine State on 15 November who is on record blaming Myanmar military leadership responsible for crackdown on the Rohingya. US administration now has sided with the British government in suspending training programme to Myanmar military.  
International outcry would not resolve Rohingya crisis. A concerted attempt needs to be taken by Bangladesh government in particular in collaboration with Malaysia and Indonesia to put pressure on China, Japan and India to impress upon Chief of armed forces of Myanmar to rehabilitate Rohingya in Myanmar. Myanmar armed forces control the administration which was intended to bring dishonor to Aung San Suu Kyi. In this process they are successful indeed. Any deviation in dealing with Rohingya minority without   concurrence of Tatmadaw will bring down fall of Aung San Suu Kyi.  There is a need to impose economic sanctions on armed forces of Myanmar and a modus operandi should be evolved by the United Nations to take Rohingya back to their home land with respect they deserve.

(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat from Bangladesh writes from Falls Church, Virginia)

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