One week after a meeting with a senior minister from Myanmar, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali yesterday said Dhaka has not agreed to Naypyidaw's proposal of following the principle and criteria of the 1992 deal to take back the forcibly displaced Myanmar national's population.
He said the 1992 criteria is not “realistic” and the “situation of 1992 and current situation are entirely different.”
In a diplomatic briefing yesterday, Mahmood said that on October 2, the Union Minister Kyaw Tint Swe expressed Myanmar's willingness to take back the “displaced residents” of Myanmar and proposed to follow the principle and criteria agreed upon in the 1992 ”Joint Statement”.
Bangladesh signed a Joint Statement with the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) of Myanmar on April 28, 1992 under which Myanmar agreed to the return of those refugees who could “establish their bona fide residency in Myanmar” prior to their departure for Bangladesh.
Myanmar agreed that the Rohingya having “Myanmar citizenship identity cards or national registration cards or other relevant documents” issued by the authorities concerned could return to Myanmar.
The 1992 deal was signed after an influx of more than 250,000 Rohingyas took shelter into Bangladesh.
Mahmood told the top diplomats of 27 countries based in Dhaka that while Bangladesh has welcomed the visit of the Union Minister and his willingness to work together for the return of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals, with regard to the principles and criteria of return under the 1992 Joint Statement, the foreign minister highlighted that the situation of 1992 and current situation are “entirely different”.
Around half of the Muslim villages in the northern Rakhine State have been burned down and it is still going on.
“So, identification of Rohingyas based on their residence in Rakhine would not be realistic. Bangladesh therefore proposed and handed over a new arrangement to the visiting Minister outlining the principles and criteria for repatriation,” he told the foreign diplomats.
”Response from Myanmar on the proposed arrangement of return is awaited,” he added.
It should be noted that the foreign minister, during his media briefing on October 2, did not say anything about Myanmar's proposal to take back the Rohingyas by following the criteria of 1992.
Bangladesh media came to know about the proposal from a press statement issued on October 3 on the visit of Kyaw Tint Swe to Bangladesh and his subsequent meeting with a Bangladesh delegation. The press release is available on the website of Myanmar State Counsellor Office.
According to the release, a total of 236,495 people of 46,993 households had been repatriated from Bangladesh to Myanmar from September 1992 until July 2005 in line with the agreed criteria set out in the Joint Statement between Foreign Ministers of Myanmar and Bangladesh on 28 April 1992.
During the briefing yesterday, Mahmood further informed the diplomats that both sides also agreed to form a joint working group in this regard.
He also shared that Myanmar has invited him and the home minister to visit Myanmar and the invitations have been accepted.
Later when briefing reporters, Mahmood said Bangladesh will not take any decision like getting involved in any war with Myanmar as it wants a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis through diplomatic efforts.
"Why should we get involved in war? We won't do that. Why should we destroy our development? We want peace," he said and added that Bangladesh is now a role model of development for many countries worldwide, including some developed ones.
Earlier, the foreign minister thanked the international community for their support and urged them to continue their engagement till a peaceful resolution is found to this humanitarian crisis.
The briefing was held at State Guesthouse Padma and was attended by Ambassadors, High Commissioners and CDAs from diplomatic missions of Australia, China, Egypt, France, Italy, Japan, Russia, Sweden, United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, India, The Netherlands, Vatican, Denmark, Spain, EU, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Switzerland and Norway.
The foreign minister briefed the diplomats about the current Rohingya situation and mentioned that the atrocities in the Rakhine State have not stopped and Rohingyas are continuing to cross the border. According to UN bodies, as of today, 5,20,000 Rohingyas crossed the border since 25 August; nearly 40,000 of them arrived in the last 10 days.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and other senior officials were present.