Myanmar, ASEAN Team to Visit Rohingyas Camp

By Muktadir Rashid   26 July 2019

DHAKA—A Myanmar delegation along with five members of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) emergency response team will visit Rohingya refugees at temporary settlements in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Saturday to discuss a way forward with their repatriation.

Bangladeshi officials in Cox’s Bazar said the delegation will arrive in Dhaka on Friday, Jul. 26, fly to Cox’s Bazar the following Saturday and leave Cox’s Bazar that Sunday.

Officials said four representatives from Myanmar’s embassy in Dhaka would join a 10-member Myanmar delegation led by U Myint Thu, permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, and that Ko Ko Naing, director-general of Myanmar’s Disaster Management Department, will be part of the delegation.

On May 23, 2019, the UN refugee agency signed a memorandum of understanding with the Disaster Management Department to collaborate on humanitarian work.

Apart from the Myanmar delegation but at the same time, five members of the AHA Centere, the ASEAN emergency response team, will also visit Rohingya leaders.

“We want to see a positive outcome following the visit,” Muhammad Abul Kalam, the Bangladesh Refugees, Relief and Repatriation commissioner, said.

An unnamed Cox’s Bazar official who deals with the Rohingya repatriation process said that, at similar meetings in the past, Myanmar officials had explained their national verification process in relation to the repatriation of the Rohingya population.

“But, after hearing all the presentations, the Rohingya leaders raised only two questions. One was when and how their citizenship would be given, and the other was whether the Myanmar government would recognize the Rohingya ethnicity among the others in Myanmar,” the senior official said. “But the Myanmar officials did not reply to their questions.”

“This time, they [the delegation] also are coming as part of their commitment as they want to update and convince the Rohingya leaders over repatriation,” the senior official said.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday meanwhile said countries friendly to Myanmar should play their due roles in starting the repatriation of Rohingya people in a sustainable way.

“Not a single Rohingya has gone back in the last two years as things are not moving in the way they should,” he said at a discussion in Dhaka, according to a report from the Dhaka-based daily New Age.

The Rohingya community declined to go back to Myanmar due to a trust deficit with the Myanmar authorities, he said, adding that friends of Myanmar, including India, China, Japan and ASEAN members could deploy non-military observers to ensure the safety and security of the returnees in Rakhine.

The UN’s development program country director for Bangladesh, Sudipto Mukerjee, said the Rohingya crisis should be used to sustainably address historical shortcomings in protecting the natural treasure of Cox’s Bazar, according to the New Age report published on Friday.

More than 730,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh after fleeing attacks by the Myanmar military in Rakhine that began on August 25, 2017.

The Rohingya influx brought the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to over 1 million, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry.

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