Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today said the Rohingya citizenship issue was an internal affair of Myanmar and Bangladesh would not like to be taken hostage on the matter.
“Our focus is on their (Rohingyas) dignified and safe return …. We don’t have any issue regarding their citizenship there,” he said while interacting with a group of newsmen at his office at the foreign ministry here.
Momen said Myanmar has expressed its plan for the first time to provide the Rohingyas “part to citizenship” or “natural citizenship” and it’s a “breakthrough”.
The foreign minister said he observed positive sign from the visiting Myanmar delegation. “It’s a good sign. What they are offering this is part to citizenship and it’s a good deal,” he added.
Momen said the Rohingyas should go back to their motherland to realize their rights and “they (Rohingyas) should understand, it’s not possible to realize their all demands (citizenship) unless they are going back (to Rakhine)”.
Momen said Bangladesh today handed over a list of more 25,000 verified Rohingyas belonging to 6,000 families to Myanmar for repatriation
Bangladesh earlier handed over a list of 30,000 Rohingyas in two phases and among them Myanmar by now already verified 8,000 for repatriation in the first batch.
The foreign minister said the countries those have close ties with Myanamr like China also want to see the Rohingyas’ return to Myanmar.
“These are all good signs (to resolve the crisis),” he repeated.
Momen said he received an invitation from his Myanmar counterpart but “I told him I will go when the first batch of Rohingyas will return home”.
Meanwhile in the morning, the visiting Myanmar delegation expressed its readiness to take back their Rohingya nationals amid fears of their fate once they returned to their homeland.
“Actually I asked them (Rohingyas) that this is the right time to consider whether they should to go back or not, because we provided explanation to their key issues,” Myanmar’s foreign affairs permanent secretary Myint Thu, who leads a 19-member delegation, told a news briefing here.
He added: “Myanmar is ready to welcome the Rohingyas (back home) . . . but the only thing is they (Rohingyas) have to decide (about their return) by themselves”.
Bangladesh’s acting Foreign Secretary Kamrul Ahsan, who was present at the briefing as well, however, said Naypyidaw must generate trust among the Rohingyas for their spontaneous return saying “as long as confidence is not built up they (Rohingyas) won’t go back”.
Ahsan simultaneously added: “we (Bangladesh) won’t push back anyone forcibly”.
A 19-member Myanmar delegation in the last two days visited the Rohingya camps, one specially erected for Hindu residents of Rakhine who too were forced to flee their home along with the majority Rohingya Muslims.
This was the third visit by a Myanmar delegation to the Rohingya camps but this time they were accompanied by a 5-member ASEAN observer group during the interactions when the newsmen were barred from going along with them.
About 1.1 million Rohingyas fled Myanmar into Bangladesh following alleged mass murder, rape and other atrocities in Rakhine since August 2017. The displaced Rohingyas are now living in 30 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar district.
Myanmar agreed to take back the Rohingyas under a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh on January 16, 2018. But, the deal did not progress much as there was little tangible action from the Myanmar side and refusal of the displaced persons to go back amid uncertainty and insecurity.
Previously, the first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but eventually they declined to go back, fearing that the situation in Rakhine was still not favourable.