DHAKA: Bangladesh has accused Myanmar of launching a “misinformation campaign” over the repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
The claim was made on Wednesday by Bangladeshi Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen following a high-level meeting in Dhaka to discuss the issue.
During the Future of Asia conference held in Japan at the end of May, Myanmar claimed that Bangladesh was solely responsible for not starting the repatriation process of the Rohingya people.
However, Momen hit back on Wednesday, telling reporters that Myanmar had recently presented a report on two “showcase villages” in Rakhine, which it said proved the situation in the state was now conducive for a return. But the minister said the study, produced through ASEAN, a regional body of Southeast Asian nations of which Myanmar was a member nation, could not be representative of all 800 villages in the state.
More than 740,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017, following a so-called “clearance operation” by the Myanmar army described by the UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and “intent of genocide.”
Bangladesh signed a bilateral instrument with Myanmar in the same year, which was supposed to have triggered the start of a two-year repatriation process in January 2018. A later agreed date of mid-November to begin the return was also missed.
“Myanmar didn’t keep their promises. They were supposed to create a conducive environment in the Rakhine province. But they did nothing in this regard,” Momen said.
Briefing ambassadors and high commissioners at the meeting in the Bangladeshi capital, Momen urged them to put more international pressure on Myanmar to create appropriate conditions for repatriation. He added that Rohingya issue would be the “topmost priority” during Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China next month.
China, a close ally of Myanmar, had advocated that Bangladesh and Myanmar should solve the Rohingya crisis bilaterally and played a key role in the repatriation instrument between the countries.
“China has also agreed with us that these Myanmar people should be taken back home. We hope that after the visit of the prime minister, the process (repatriation) will start,” Momen added.
He noted that oppression was widespread in all communities in Rakhine.
Bangladesh has launched a campaign to put more effective international pressure on Myanmar to repatriate more than 1.1 million Rohingyas to their homeland.
On Sunday, Momen sent a letter to all 80 consul-generals of Bangladesh in different countries and those of foreign nations in Bangladesh, requesting they engage foreign governments and civil societies in helping to create a safe environment for Rohingyas in Myanmar and oversee the process of repatriating the refugees from Bangladesh.
“The delay of repatriation of Rohingyas, who have been deprived of basic rights for decades, may threaten regional security and stability,” Momen wrote.
Delowar Hossain, director-general Southeast Asia, of the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, told Arab News: “We want more direct engagement in different international forums from our friends. This is one of the most important issues at this moment and we all want a solution at the soonest possible time.”
Akramul Qader, former Bangladeshi ambassador to the US, told Arab News: “In every meeting, Myanmar promises that they will work soon for creating a conducive environment for the repatriation but in reality, there is not a single person who has repatriated so far.”
He said that Bangladesh’s efforts to engage the world and civil societies of different countries was a very timely approach.
Prof. Amena Mohsin of Dhaka University, an international relations expert, said China was the most important mover in helping to resolve the issue.
“If China wants to be a regional power it should recognize the problems and unease of Bangladesh. Moreover, there are some ethical issues also which a superpower like China can’t ignore,” Mohsin told Arab News.
Another former Bangladeshi ambassador to the US, Humayun Kabir said that Bangladesh had the support of the whole world in its efforts to resolve the Rohingya crisis, except for China, Russia and India.
“The existing geopolitical situation of this region is actually working as a big obstacle in resolving the Rohingya crisis,” Kabir told Arab News.
Although almost half of the year has passed, only 22 percent of the annual $920 million appeal for the Joint Response Plan (JRP) to the Rohingya humanitarian crisis has been met. This has created concern among aid agencies. According to the financial tracking system of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), only $202.3 million has been disbursed by the donor community.
“We keep reminding the donor community that they need to fund the JRP and stand with Bangladesh. With the upcoming two-year anniversary of the 2017 influx this will become even more important as the JRP is only just over 20 percent funded,” said Stephen Pattison, communication officer for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees at Cox’s Bazar.
“However, we will keep working here in this response, but funding shortages will, obviously, limit the scope of what we are able to do for the Rohingya refugees here,” he told Arab News.