Myanmar has expressed its willingness to take back all the 700,000 Rohingya refugees that are sheltered in Bangladesh since August 2017, at a dialogue forum in Singapore. In fact, Myanmar is bound by international law to take back its own people who have fled persecution in their own homeland. We find it dubious on its part to add a caveat making it dependent on the voluntariness on the part of the refugees. We wonder whether it is another mendacious action the likes of which we have been witnessing since the beginning of the latest exodus.
It is up to Myanmar to create conditions for the Rohingyas to return willingly. Even now the government is unwilling to acknowledge that a pre-planned campaign is going on in northern Rakhine to cleanse that area of the Rohingyas, which even the UN and other aid agencies have called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. It is still asking for proof when proof is aplenty. It shamefacedly tries to dilute the severity of the Rohingya suffering by comparing that with the state of other ethnic and religious groups in the region.
We fear that the new offer with a caveat is made with ulterior motives and is another trick on Myanmar's part to stunt the process of repatriation. However, we see some positive signs in Naypyidaw's expressed intention to sign deals with UN Refugee Agency and UNDP. That would allow UN oversight of the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh.
International agencies, particularly the UN agencies, must oversee the repatriation and international opinion must be brought on Naypyidaw, like the threat to haul it to the ICC for war crimes, to ensure that the three basic conditions—safety of the Rohingyas, return to their own homestead and rights of citizenship—are guaranteed to them.
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