Address fears of Rohingya before repatriation - GulfToday

Address fears of Rohingya before repatriation

Rohingya Refugee Camps

Rohingya refugees at Thaingkhali makeshift refugee camp in Bangladesh. Reuters

It is not surprising that none of the thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in crowded refugee camps in Bangladesh turned up for a planned repatriation to Myanmar on Thursday.

The horrific actions of violence and ethnic cleansing by Myanmar military have left the Rohingya Muslims horror-struck. They are genuinely gripped by fear.

Incidentally, this month marks the second anniversary of the fleeing of more than 730,000 Rohingya from Myanmar’s northwest Rakhine State to Bangladesh after a brutal military-led crackdown.

Rohingya Muslims have long demanded that Myanmar give them citizenship, safety and their own land and homes they left behind.

The Buddhist-majority nation has refused to recognise Rohingya as citizens or even as one of its ethnic groups, rendering them stateless, and they also face other forms of state-sanctioned discrimination.

A panel of independent investigators, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, has now made it clear that Myanmar’s government failed to hold anyone accountable and it was responsible under the Genocide Convention for its failure to investigate and punish acts of genocide.

Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 per cent of the rapes corroborated by the mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) was responsible for 82 per cent of these gang rapes, as per the report.

Adding insult to injury, the Myanmar government refused entry to the UN investigators. The investigators were forced to travel to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and meet with aid groups, think-tanks, academics and intergovernmental organisations.

In an August 2018 report, the investigators laid out five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military: the use of derogatory language; specific comments by government officials, politicians, religious authorities and military commanders prior, during and after the violence; the existence of discriminatory plans and policies; evidence of an organised plan of destruction; and the extreme brutality of the campaign.

Instead of accepting the truth and taking remedial measures, the Myanmar government is involved in a blame game.

The country has pushed the blame for its second failed attempt to repatriate the Rohingya on Bangladesh.

Despite a 2017 pact signed by the two countries, the first repatriation efforts failed, with virtually no Rohingya agreeing to return without guarantees of safety and citizenship.

A fresh push was to begin Thursday, with both governments vowing to repatriate nearly 3,500 Rohingya, but this again fell flat when no one turned up for buses intended to ferry them across the border.

Not only did the Rohingya face horrific violence at the hands of security forces in 2016 and 2017 with no accountability, they have been subjected to decades-long systematic discrimination and persecution in Myanmar.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken the correct stand that her government will not force the refugees to return and the repatriation will only happen if they are willing.

The way forward is for Myanmar to recognise the Rohingya Muslims’ ethnic identity, grant them citizenship and allow them to return to their original homes and lands with safety and security guarantee.

The reality is that the refugees face a desperate humanitarian situation. It should not reach a situation where hopelessness sets in the minds of the victims.

Rights groups have warned that conditions are not right for repatriation.

Many refugees say that they want to go back under direct UN supervision, not under the Myanmar government. Such a demand is justified, considering how Myanmar has treated the victims.

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