Thousands of Rohingya Muslims rallied in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh’s southeast coast, on Sunday, pleading with the international community to make arrangements for their safe return to Myanmar. Rohingyas organized demonstrations under the slogan “Let’s go home” just a day before World Refugee Day, with 19 demands, including their prompt and dignified repatriation to Myanmar and the involvement of international organizations in the repatriation.
According to reports, their demands include immediate repatriation to Myanmar as full citizens, amendment of the Citizenship Act-1982, participation of the US, UK, UN, ASEAN, and other international communities in the repatriation process, repatriation to their respective villages in Myanmar, protection of their rights, dignity, and safety in Myanmar, and an end to the persecution of Myanmar’s innocent people.
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Bangladesh wants to find a peaceful solution to the Rohingya situation, and it expects Myanmar and the international community to do the same. Our administration began diplomatic attempts to return them and negotiated agreements with Myanmar. But, five years later, not a single Rohingya has returned to their homeland, fearful of being persecuted if they do.
To make voluntary repatriations possible, Myanmar must ensure that Rohingya Muslims are not persecuted. Returning refugees will not be persecuted.
We’ve done everything we can to ensure Rohingya return through peaceful means, but nothing has worked out so far.
It goes without saying that voluntary repatriation of Rohingyas is the most sustainable and long-lasting solution to the situation. However, because to the Rohingyas’ lack of faith in Myanmar’s government, repatriation attempts failed twice in November 2018 and August 2019.
Myanmar must ensure that Rohingya refugees are not persecuted upon their return in order to facilitate voluntary repatriations.
To this aim, the international community and the United Nations should increase pressure on Myanmar to create a safe, secure, and dignified environment in which Rohingya refugees can return to their homeland in safety and dignity. We anticipate the international community to play a more assertive diplomatic role in pressuring Myanmar to return the Rohingyas.
The military takeover in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, has sparked fears in Bangladesh that the new leadership will not follow through on promises to return Rohingya Muslim refugees already residing in the country. Despite the Bangladesh government’s strong diplomatic efforts to repatriate Myanmar’s citizens, the Rohingya, the Myanmar government has been hesitant to do so.
Despite Bangladesh’s best efforts, more than three years after 750,000 Rohingyas escaped a horrific military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, repatriation has yet to begin.
So far, the Myanmar military has succeeded to deceive the entire globe. Despite being humanitarian and allies of Bangladesh, the international community has failed to take significant action. Myanmar’s military operations in Rakhine are still in the same state as they were five years ago. It was hoped that shared friends of the two countries, such as China, India, and Russia, would resolve the matter, but so far no concrete attempts have been seen. So far, no demands for a change in Myanmar’s policy have arisen in the foreign press.
The Myanmar military has remained absolutely silent on the Rohingya citizenship issue. Despite the fact that a number of countries put a limited embargo on Myanmar’s generals, such attempts have already been proven ineffective.
Five years later, international action is urgently needed to return the Rohingyas to their homes. In this case, the Myanmar military cannot remain mute. They believe that the world and the international community will forgive them and forget about the Rohingyas’ predicament. Because the world spotlight has turned to the crisis in Covid-19, Ukraine, and Afghanistan, Myanmar’s military is hesitant to address the matter. However, this time, Rohingyas began to speak out against the injustice they are experiencing.
Following the coup in 2021 and the Rohingya refugee crisis, the Myanmar military is under intense international pressure to support democratic movements. The Myanmar military may profit in the long run if it takes the initiative to return Rohingyas to Myanmar. Myanmar should end its conflict with Bangladesh as soon as feasible in order to maintain regional stability. Otherwise, the Myanmar military could face calamity. Myanmar will not be able to withstand international pressure. Myanmar could profit from bilaterally settling the conflict with Bangladesh by reinforcing trade relations if the crisis is resolved. As a result, it is in Myanmar’s military’s best interests to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The message is clear: Rohingya refugees do not want to remain in Bangladesh as refugees and do not tolerate Myanmar military injustice.
It’s time to reclaim the Rohingyas in Myanmar; the Rohingyas have set a clear message for the Myanmar military administration with this big march.
This article is written by Samina Akhter who is a Dhaka-based freelance writer and women and human rights activist. She is deeply interested in the foreign policies of Bangladesh and other South Asian countries.