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Myanmar blames Bangladesh for 2nd failed Rohingya repatriation

By Bhupen Goswami

Guwahati : Myanmar has blamed Bangladesh for failing to send back 3,000 odd Rohingya refugees this week that it had agreed to take back. A fresh effort for repatriation of nearly 3500 Rohingyas was to begin on Thursday, with both governments vowing to get the repatriation process started this week. But it qall fell flat as no one in the refugee camps boarded the buses intended to ferry them across the border. Despite a 2017 pact signed by the two countries, the repatriation efforts have failed so far, with no Rohingya agreeing to return without guarantees of safety and citizenship. Myanmar’s foreign ministry blamed Bangladesh for the failure in a smart move designed to hold Dhaka responsible for not sending back the Rohingyas earmarked for repatriation. A Burmese foreign ministry official was quoted by the pro-government “New Light of Myanmar” as saying that Bangladesh officials failed to distribute the “correct paperwork” to the returnees. “Smooth repatriation for the displaced persons would require adherence to the bilateral agreement.

The Bangladesh officials were expected to distribute to the returnees verification forms that was not done ,” said the official. These forms fall short of granting citizenship to the Rohingyas but attest their claims of residence in villages of Rakhine state. The Burmese foreign ministry official confirmed that China and Japan were actively pushing for starting the repatriation process to scale down tensions in the Rakhine and sort out the massive humanitarian problem. “It was the Chinese who informed us of Bangladesh’s intention to start the repatriation process,” the official said. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her visit to China last month has prodded Beijing to play a “decisive role” in getting the Rohingya repatriation started . With this week’s failure to get the process going, Hasina’s government appeared to be getting impatient. Her foreign minister A K Abdul Momen described as “very disappointing” the insistence by the Rohingyas on grant of Burmese citizenship as a pre-condition for return. But global rights group and UN officials insist that condition for return of the Rohingyas do not exist in Rakhine. Christopher Sidoti, a member of the UN fact finding team to Rakhine, was quoted in media as saying that the Rohingyas would be “going back to a situation of persecution.The Myanmar military waged a brutal crackdown on the stateless Muslim minority in western Rakhine state, leading to an exodus of more than 740,000 Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh. The region remains riven by religious and ethnic conflict.

The Rohingya who stayed remain confined in squalid camps or villages with no freedom of movement. Despite a 2017 pact signed by the two countries, the first repatriation efforts have 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. Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued the blame game Friday. “Smooth repatriation for the displaced persons would require the adherence to the bilateral agreement,” the state-run New Light of Myanmar said. The ministry put the onus on Bangladesh for failing to distribute the correct paperwork, so-called “verification forms” to potential returnees — a controversial form of ID that falls short of granting Rohingya citizenship.

“This procedure was not adhered to,” it said, adding Bangladesh had also “ignored” a request to expedite the return of more than 400 Hindu refugees. The ministry confirmed China and Japan had facilitated repatriation, and it had been the Chinese government that informed them earlier this month of Bangladesh’s intent to re-start the process. Dhaka is eager for the Rohingya’s return, with its resources severely strained by nearly a million refugees living in camps. Thursday’s no-show by the refugees was “very disappointing” for Bangladesh, said foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen. He added the Rohingya were taking the country “hostage” by insisting on their demands for citizenship.

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