File photo of Rohingya refugees walk towards a refugee camp after crossing the Myanmar-Bnagladesh border Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune
Myanmar should concentrate on fulfilling its obligations to take back its forcibly displaced people, says a Foreign Ministry statement
Bangladesh has accused Myanmar of misleading the international community with made-up information regarding Rohingya repatriation, asking the latter to stop making false accusations against its neighbour.
In a strongly-worded press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday, Dhaka has said Naypyidaw should, instead, be fulfilling its obligations by taking back its own people.
“It is a matter of utter dismay to witness persistent campaign on the part of the government of Myanmar to mislead the international community with fabricated information, misrepresentation of facts, unsubstantiated claims and undue accusations on Bangladesh in order to avoid its obligations for the sustained repatriation and reintegration of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas in safety and dignity,” the statement said.
According to government sources, Myanmar Union Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin made one such attempt during the recently held 18th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), held in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In his effort to refute the well-rounded remarks by Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, made at the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting of the summit on October 23, Tin issued a statement accusing Bangladesh of mischaracterizing the Rohingya crisis as “religious persecution,” “driving an ethnic group out of the country,” “ethnic cleansing,” or “genocide.”
But in reality, such observations were made by the international community based on documented evidence, which bear the unmistakable signs of forcible displacement of the Rohingyas from their ancestral home in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, due to the violence committed by both Myanmar security forces and civilian population.
The nature and extent of the atrocities in 2017, which forced nearly 750,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh, surpassed all previous records.
Myanmar has always portrayed Rohingyas as “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh during the colonial era, and recently tried to label them as refugees from across the border who fled the 1971 Liberation War that led to Bangladesh’s independence.
However, according to historians, Rohingyas are a distinct ethnic community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, having evolved over the centuries through mingling of migrated people of various races and cultures from different parts of the world with the local people in Rakhine.
On two previous occasions, Myanmar recognized the displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh as their lawful residents and repatriated them. After the recent influx, Myanmar signed bilateral instruments with Bangladesh, identifying them as “Myanmar residents.”
Attempts to create controversy over their identity at this stage clearly indicate that Myanmar still pursues the policy of exclusion and marginalization of its ethnic minorities.
Tin’s statement also blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) for initiating the crisis and preventing the displaced Rohingyas from returning in order to advance their political agenda.
However, the Bangladesh government has reaffirmed to Myanmar that there are no Arsa activities in the Rohingya refugee camps, and that it has taken adequate measures to ensure that the potential Rohingya returnees are able to express their views on return without any influence or threat from any quarter.
Myanmar often complains against Bangladesh for non-cooperation in repatriation. Such accusation is baseless and could be guided by an ulterior motive. No one agreed to return on two previous repatriation attempts, as the Rohingyas are not convinced of having access to security and sustainable livelihood in Rakhine.
The Bangladesh government maintains its principled position of not preventing anyone, regardless of ethnic and religious identity, who intends to return to Myanmar any time, and stands ready to extend all possible cooperation to those who volunteer to return.
Myanmar’s claim of return of a handful of people out of around 1.1 million Rohingya refugees currently living in Cox’s Bazar, using their personal contact with Myanmar officials, does not testify any improvement of the ground reality in Rakhine. A recent comprehensive report on these returnees by Radio Free Asia reveals total lack of preparedness on part of Myanmar.
Bangladesh has consistently been pursuing the policy of resolving this protracted problem through dialogue, maintaining friendly relations with Myanmar. Unjustifiable accusation on the part of a party who is entirely responsible for the protracted crisis is unacceptable, andsuch venture would undermine Bangladesh’s current efforts to resolve the crisis.
Bangladesh rejects such baseless accusation, falsification, and misrepresentation of facts, the Foreign Ministry statement said, adding that Myanmar must stop such concocted campaign and concentrate on the fulfilment of its obligations with regard to Rohingya repatriation.