Naypyitaw – Myanmar government spokesman U Zaw Htay has blamed the Bangladeshi government for the stalled repatriation process of Muslim refugees.
He told the media: “As long as Bangladesh doesn’t cooperate, this problem will continue to exist. There was a problem in 1993. But there was cooperation then and [repatriation] was successful. This problem happens because Bangladesh doesn’t cooperate.
“Bangladesh on the international stage called for action and sanctions against Myanmar. It should not behave like that. The country has acted improperly,” he said.
The Myanmar military counterinsurgency operations in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in August 2017 pushed more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighboring Bangladesh.
Recently, the Gambia, backed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, moved to prosecute Myanmar at the International Court of Justice.
Rohingya activists in exile and Latin American human rights groups have also submitted a lawsuit with a court in Argentina over alleged crimes against Rohingya Muslims, in which State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the presidents of both the current and previous administrations are targeted.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has approved a prosecution request to investigate crimes against humanity regarding Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar.
“Bangladesh said one thing to us and another to the media. So we have had to conduct tripartite talks between the Chinese foreign minister, Myanmar [State Counselor’s Office minister] U Kyaw Tint Swe and the Bangladeshi foreign minister. Only then we will have witnesses to support our argument,” said U Zaw Htay during his Friday press conference in Naypyitaw.
U Kyaw Tint Swe held talks with the UN Secretary General and the foreign ministers of China and Bangladesh at the recent UN General Assembly, said U Zaw Htay.
“At the time, the Bangladeshi foreign minister made promises before the Chinese minister and set a date for repatriation. So we took it for granted and made preparations. But the repatriation did not start,” said U Zaw Htay.
The Myanmar government has failed to handle the Rakhine crisis properly and the situation has not improved, according to the Muslim former political prisoner U Tun Kyi. The government, if it is to accept refugees back, has to ensure their safety, citizenship and fundamental rights, he said.
“The international pressures will only increase if the government neglects those things. Bangladesh is putting pressure on the international community due to the burden of refugees. Our country has suffered a lot as it is faced with problems during the transition,” said U Tun Kyi.
But the government spokesman blamed Bangladesh.
“It is necessary that Bangladesh cooperates as a good neighbor. Without its cooperation, this humanitarian crisis will only worsen. If Bangladesh, which has accepted refugees, cannot start the repatriation process, it will be responsible,” said U Zaw Htay.
“Prosecuting Myanmar will not solve the problem,” he said.
Although Bangladesh said that Rohingya refugees were unwilling to return to Myanmar, 415 refugees have returned voluntarily since April, the spokesman added. Only 11 were Hindus and the rest were Rohingya Muslims, he said.
They have not returned to their original villages and are currently living with relatives.
The Bangladesh Embassy in Yangon did not respond on Monday to The Irrawaddy’s emailed request for comment.