Rohingya Repatriation: Myanmar's claim raises eyebrows
Dhaka again refuted the Myanmar government's claim of “receiving” 62 Rohingya refugees, among the 700,000 who fled to Bangladesh due to a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine State.
Dhaka termed it as being fake, an eyewash and a publicity stunt to mislead the international community.
The “returnees” include 58 persons pardoned by the Myanmar's president and four others whose cases were withdrawn, according to a statement released by the State Counsellor's Office on Sunday.
They (62 people) had tried to return on their own, ignoring official procedure, and they had been arrested by the Myanmar authorities for illegally crossing the border.
However, they were pardoned by the president and released from prison before being sent to the Nga Khu Ya Reception Camp on May 26.
The state counsellor's statement did not specify when or how many had returned to the strife-torn northern Rakhine State's Maungdaw Township from refugee camps in Bangladesh. It also failed to mention the names of the villages of the returnees or even the total number of Rohingyas imprisoned.
Dhaka, however, was unaware of the developments and had no knowledge of anyone's attempt to leave the makeshift camps in Cox's Bazaar.
Officials at the foreign ministry said they had not heard of any incidents of Rohingya refugees going back to Myanmar.
Though Myanmar claimed it was ready to take back the displaced people and accused Bangladesh of delaying the implementation of the repatriation deal, the UN and other international organisations and right groups said safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return to Rakhine State was impossible under the current conditions.
Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam told The Daily Star they were aware of Myanmar's statement of receiving refugees. However, he had no information regarding it.
"I have no information of any such return. I can't tell you more than that," he told The Daily Star.
Earlier on April 14, the Myanmar government, in a similar stunt, claimed that it had “repatriated” the first Rohingya refugees. It said five members of a family voluntarily re-entered the Taungpyoletwei town refugee reception centre.
But it was proven that the said Rohingya family had not reached Bangladesh at all as they had camped on the Myanmar side of the border and spent several months there.
Bangladesh government officials termed the latest announcement as nothing but a farce and said it was a “total hoax” because foreign ministry officials and repatriation officials in Cox's Bazar had categorically said that not a single person had been officially repatriated as of yesterday (Monday).
“Despite these efforts, the procedures for systematic repatriation are still not yet widely known by the displaced persons. As a result, the displaced persons who no longer find it tenable to continue their stay in the camps in Cox's Bazaar began returning to Rakhine State of their own volition and under their own arrangements,” the statement of the State Counsellor office said.
About the so-called 62 returnees, it said these people were released from prison and sent to the Nga Khu Ya reception camp on May 26. After necessary verification, they would be transferred to the transit camp in Hla Phoe Khaung.
The statement added that authorities would not take action against any of the returnees unless they were involved in terrorist activities.
The Myanmar Army launched a counter-terrorism campaign after the alleged attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on government security outposts on August 25, 2017, driving over 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.
Their army has been accused of causing mass devastation and committing rights violations, arbitrary killings, sexual violence against women, limitless torture, which the international community, including the UN and US, termed as “text book example of ethnic cleansing.”
The United Nations Security Council, which sent a team to visit Bangladesh and Myanmar in late April and early May, called upon Myanmar to cooperate in a credible independent investigation into alleged abuses by security forces and to allow UN organisations and aid workers into Rakhine.
The EU and the US have already imposed targeted sanctions against top military generals responsible for the violence in Maungdaw, while international human rights groups have called on the UN to bring high-ranking military officials before the International Criminal Court.