DHAKA: Rohingya refugees pressed their demand to be granted Myanmar citizenship in a meeting on Saturday with a delegation from Yangon.
The meeting, held at the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in southeast Bangladesh, is the first between the Myanmar government and Rohingya Muslims since their exodus from their homeland in August 2017 to flee rampaging Buddhiest vigilantes.
The 17-member delegation from Myanmar arrived in Bangladesh on Friday night on a three-day visit to discuss repatriation issues with the refugees. The delegation included five members from ASEAN states led by the permanent secretary of the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myint Thu.
A 35-member team of Rohingya community leaders participated in the Saturday meeting, which lasted for more than three hours.
The meeting is an outcome of Bangladesh’s efforts to persuade Myanmar to send a delegation to convince the Rohingyas about the situation in Rakhine —the province in Myanmar where most of the refugees came from — to help them decide about repatriation.
Sayed Ullah, secretary of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, said the refugee delegation simply pressed their citizenship demand.
”They didn’t say anything new. The Myanmar delegation members requested us to accept the National Verification Card (NVC), but what will we do with this without the citizenship rights?” Ullah told Arab News.
”We have demanded for further dialogue over repatriation issues in the presence of a third party and they have agreed with us," he added.
Mohammad Shamsuddoza, of the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), said: ”The good thing is that the Myanmar side have agreed with the proposal for further dialogue. But the next date and venue of the meeting is yet to be fixed.”
The delegation will meet the same group of Rohingyas on Sunday again, said Shamsuddoza.
Another Bangladeshi high official who was present in the meeting said, ”Initially it took some time to break the ice during the meeting between Myanmar authorities and the Rohingya refugees. But it was fine as the time went on.”
Some Bangladeshi experts have reservations about Myanmar and its talk of repatriation.
"We shouldn’t expect much from Myanmar. They don’t recognize the Rohingya Muslims, along with other minorities of the country. The military junta wanted to make a Buddhist nationalist country in Myanmar,” Ambassador S. M. Rashed Ahmed Chowdhury, former Bangladesh envoy to Japan, told Arab News.
He opined that all the Myanmar efforts are ”eye wash” and only to ”divert” international pressure from the country.
Ambassador Chowdhury, who is also the former UN regional administrator of Kosovo, said: ”Myanmar should allow a buffer state in Rakhine which will be monitored and controlled by the international forces. Only the recognition of citizenship of the Rohingyas can bring a sustainable solution of the Rohingya crisis.”
Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas who fled the persecution of the Myanmar army in their homeland in Rakhine.