Military Tells Bangladesh: Myanmar Ready to Accept Rohingya Refugees

By Htet Naing Zaw 10 December 2019

NAYPYITAW—Vice-Senior General Soe Win, deputy commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s defense services, has told Bangladeshi Army Chief of Staff General Aziz Ahmed that Myanmar is ready for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. General Ahmed was in Myanmar on an official state visit at the invitation of Myanmar’s military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

“The Bangladeshi side has explained their efforts [towards repatriation]. We also explained the preparations the [Myanmar] government has made,” said military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun.

The Bangladeshi general arrived in Yangon on Sunday and met leaders from the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, the following day in Naypyitaw.

On Monday, Vice-Senior General Soe Win extended a ceremonial welcome to the Bangladeshi general.

According to military officials, the two discussed border security, how to promote friendship between the armed forces of the two countries, and repatriation of refugees who were forced from their homes from northern Rakhine and fled into Bangladesh.

The Bangladeshi military delegation also visited the Defense Services Museum in Naypyitaw.

Myanmar military operations in Rakhine State in September 2017 following attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on security outposts caused more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh. Myanmar military and political leaders have since then been under international pressure over alleged human rights violations.

Despite Myanmar and Bangladesh having signed a repatriation agreement in November 2017, implementation has failed repeatedly and each side blames the other for the delay. Citing resistance to repatriation from the Rohingya, who fear for their safety, rights groups have also warned that without legal protections such as citizenship, Rohingya refugees will continue to face persecution in Myanmar.

Last year, Myanmar signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the UN’s development (UNDP) and refugee (UNHCR) agencies to help with the voluntary return and reintegration of displaced Rohingya.

The two countries’ attempts to repatriate the refugees have largely failed, as Rohingya are unwilling to go back due to concerns over security and the lack of a guarantee of citizenship status.

The last attempt to facilitate repatriation was on Nov. 15, when the Myanmar government prepared again to start accepting the displaced back into Rakhine State.

In September, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China agreed to establish a tripartite working group mechanism to evaluate the Rohingya repatriation process on the ground.