The joint delegation of Myanmar and Asean that recently visited the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar to persuade them to return to Myanmar allegedly faced a volley of questions from the refugees as to why Myanmar authorities were not discussing the root causes of the problem.
During the two-day visit, Rohingya representatives upheld their basic demands that include recognition of the Rohingya identity, granting of their citizenship, and assurance of their safety and security in Rakhine in presence of the international community.
Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH) said this in a statement issued yesterday.
According to the statement, the Rohingyas also told the delegation that they don’t want to accept the National Verification Cards (NVC), arguing that the cards are for foreigners and that the Rohingyas who have lived in Myanmar for generations cannot be foreigners.
Through a discriminatory law in 1982, the Rohingyas were stripped of citizenship. Before that, they were all citizens and enjoyed equal rights like other ethnic groups there.
“If you don’t discuss the root causes [of Rohingya crisis], how do you solve the problems and what is the meaning of repatriation?” the Rohingya representatives asked when they met the delegation led by Chan Aye, director-general of the International Organisations and Economic Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar.
The delegation comprised of nine officials from Myanmar and six officials from the Emergency Response and Assessment Team of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
They held two discussion sessions with the Rohingya representatives at a camp in Ukhiya on December 18 and 19.
A total of 46 Rohingya representatives attended the discussion on the first day and 25 on the second day. ARSPH Chairman Mohibullah led the Rohingya representatives.
This was the third time Myanmar delegation visited the Rohingya camps after some 750,000 Rohingya fled a brutal military crackdown in August 2017.
Meanwhile, the Gambia filed a case with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Myanmar of genocide against the Rohingyas who were citizens of the country before 1982, but faced systematic persecution.
The statement said Chan Aye told the Rohingyas that the delegation had come to convince them for their return.
He also explained the process of repatriation with a PowerPoint presentation.
He repeatedly asked the Rohingyas that they have to accept NVCs and that they cannot change the 1982 citizenship law, the ARSPH statement read.
The leaders of the Myanmar delegation said Myanmar is a sovereign country and cannot allow international security for the safety of the Rohingyas.
The Rohingya leaders asked Aye why the Myanmar immigration authorities used “Bengali” in the birth certificates while referring to the Muslims in Sittwe two years back.
“There was no answer!” the statement said.
Talking to the reporters after the meeting on Thursday, Aye said, “Based on legal and historical facts, we explained them the reasons why we cannot accept the ethnicity of the Rohingyas. But we didn’t deny the existence of their communities.”
The Rohingya leaders asked the delegation why the Myanmar authorities had destroyed more than two thousand houses in Myo Thu Gyi Village Tract in Maungdaw township and set up new military installations and other government offices, the statement read.
“How [would] you remove them? How [would] you resettle [us]? the Rohingya representatives asked the delegation, the statement said, adding that the questions were not responded to.
Nay San Lwin, the campaign coordinator for Free Rohingya Coalition, said the visit of the Myanmar delegation appears to be nothing but an eyewash and the Bangladesh government was wasting time by allowing their visit to the camps.
“Myanmar wants to show to the international community that they want repatriation to be done,” he told The Daily Star from Germany yesterday.
“We are waiting for the ICJ ruling next month. We already have begun ‘Boycott Myanmar campaign’ and will strengthen it so that Myanmar is obliged to change its laws and grant our citizenship,” he said.