See More on Facebook

Opinion

Promises Myanmar Never Kept

Rohingyas recall previous experiences, to place 13 demands to UNSC for repatriation.


Written by

Updated: May 1, 2018

Nurul Amin had fled to Bangladesh along with his parents in 1991, just as more than 2.5 lakh Rohingya who escaped forced labour, rape and religious persecution in Myanmar.

At only 10, it was his first time as a refugee.

However, having lived in a makeshift camp for about two years in Cox’s Bazar, the family returned home in Maundaw of Rakhine on Myanmar authorities’ promise of granting them citizenship, something that they had been denied since 1982.

Years went by, but Myanmar did not grant them citizenship. Instead, they were offered national verification card (NVC), popularly known as “embassy card” which means the Rohingya are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

Nurul, the only son of his parents, still kept his hope alive although he, like all other Rohingyas, faced restrictions on movement and right to property. They also had to pay officials for marriage and even burials.

Then came the military crackdowns in 2012 and 2016 following ethnic conflicts, making life more difficult.

“I could not stay anymore when my house was burnt like those of many others. We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives,” Nurul, father of five children, told The Daily Star, sitting along a road in Kutupalong Friday.

The mega camp in Kutupalong became the world’s largest refugee camp in recent times after some 700,000 Rohingya fled the latest military offensive in August last year.

In the earlier waves in 1978 and 1991-92, hundreds of thousands of this persecuted minority community fled, but most of them returned home in the hope of better days. However, many of them had to flee to Bangladesh again and again.

In all, more than 1.1 million Rohingya now live in Bangladesh.

Their life and living condition in Myanmar is reflected in the 13-point demand they prepared for their repatriation as the UNSC visits the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

The demands include closing the camps for internally displaced people (IDP); ensure presence of international security forces in Rakhine for safety; and restoration of citizenship for the Rohingya people.

Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh amid global pressure in November last year, but the repatriation is yet to begin.

The UN and other rights bodies say the situation in Rakhine is still “extremely concerning” and is not conducive for the safe and dignified return of the Rohingya.

Nurul Amin does not like the refugee life in the squalid camp and wants to return to Maundaw, but he cannot trust Myanmar anymore. The Myanmar authorities say Rohingya have to first apply for the NVC, which is a gateway to citizenship.

During a recent visit to Bangladesh, Dr Aung Tun Thet, chief coordinator of Myanmar’s Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine, said, “If you go through it [NVC], you are sure of citizenship.”

He admitted in the past it was not easy for those having NVCs to move freely. The refugees say the small number of Rohingya who took NVCs in exchange for money could move within a neighbourhood. To move from one locality to another, they have to pay much higher.

Tun Thet said, “Now, with NVCs, people [Rohingya] can move freely within their own township in Rakhine. Slowly as you build trust, then you would be eligible to have National Registration Card.”

Myanmar’s social welfare minister U Win Myat Aye, after a visit to Cox’s Bazar early April, said that the Rohingya were ill-informed about the NVC.

At a press conference in Yangon, upon return from Bangladesh, he stressed that NVC holders were eligible for citizenship after five months.

Nurul, however, said Myanmar did not keep its promise of granting citizenship in the past.

“How can we trust Myanmar government?” he said, reflecting the frustration of any Rohingya men and women in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Syed Alam, 20, said he wants to go back to his motherland as soon as possible as a Rohingya, not as an illegal migrant from Bangladesh.

Alam, who studied up to class 10, the highest level of education any Rohingya can obtain in Rakhine, said the Myanmar authorities were deceiving the Rohingya in the name of repatriation.

“Having NVC means we are illegal migrants from Bangladesh. It is a tragedy that we will be treated as illegal migrants in our motherland. If one takes the card, he has to stay in the camp for the rest of his life,” he added.

Abdul Kader, 60, another Rohingya, said the lives of those who took embassy cards in Rakhine were simply ruined.

“They never got citizenship cards. They also could not own property worth more than TK 30,000. So you understand the scenario,” he told this correspondent, sitting at a shop at a crowded Rohingya market in Kutupalong.

The Rohingya cannot even rear any chicken, cow or goat without permission of the military, he claimed.

“They [army] visit once a month. If they find any increase in number of domestic animals, the Rohingya have to pay for that. Even if anyone wants to marry, they have to pay. Relatives also have to pay the military to bury their dead,” he claimed.

“If the Myanmar government gives us citizenship card, we will return to Myanmar immediately,” said Mohammad Yusuf, who fled to Bangladesh along with his five sons and four daughters on October 9 from Akyab in Rakhine where he owns 3.5 acres of land.

“Having an ’embassy card’ means you are a Bangalee and entered Myanmar illegally. Why should we take that card? Are we Bangalees? If we take NVC cards, we will never be given citizenship. We will have to return again,” Yusuf said.

Noor Mohammad, a Rohingya in Kutupalong, said the Myanmar authorities offered him NVC card for the last 15 years, but he refused. He said Hindus and Buddhists, who crossed the border to Myanmar, got the nationality cards immediately, but not the Rohingya Muslims.

“If they can get nationality cards, why shouldn’t we? Why should we be foreigners in our motherland?”

Razia Sultana, a Rohingya lawyer and activist, said the Rohingya were denied government jobs, higher education, healthcare and freedom of movement since 1982.

“We live like illegal foreigners in a land where we lived for generations. This is unbelievable but true,” said Razia, who fled to Bangladesh in the 1980s with her parents.

She said the Rohingya want Myanmar to recognise them as an ethnic group of Myanmar and as citizens with all basic rights.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Daily Star
About the Author: The Daily Star is a leading English-language daily newspaper in Bangladesh.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Opinion

Opinion: One Belt, One Road: We must secure our interest

Shah Husain Imam argues in the Daily Star that Bangladesh must put its interests first in joining China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. The ancient Silk Road, of which the Belt and Road Initiative is a gigantic new avatar, dates back to the Chinese Han Dynasty’s westward expansion more than 2100 years ago. The Road derived its name from the lucrative silk trade along the routes through which it branched into what are today the central Asian countries Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, as well as present-day Pakistan and India to the south. These routes eventually spanned 4,000 miles to Europe. Interestingly, silk was regarded as more precious than gold as a commodity in those times as if to convey the misty romanticism with the old world charm about a fine fabric. At any rate, the Silk Road by no means offered silken smooth passage to travellers like Marco P


By Daily Star
September 21, 2018

Opinion

A land with no smiles

The Thai middle class’ Faustian bargain with the military is hampering true democracy in the country. Almost ten years ago, I met a protester on the streets of Bangkok. It was a time of protest and political instability with the drama between the government and protesters spilling out onto the streets. To protect his identity against possible military reprisal, let us call him Nadech. Nadech will unlikely be recorded in history books, he was not a political leader, nor a despotic general or any other archetype of Thai history. He was a simple junk-store hawker, an occupation that involves going from house to house and sorting garbage to sell. His family had done well enough through grit and hard work to open a small convenience store in his home province. Nadech had taken to the streets in 2010 because he had believed the promises that exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had made and had seen, fi


By Cod Satrusayang
September 21, 2018

Opinion

Comment: Trade war won’t help Washington ‘make America great again’

Washington claims Beijing has launched six economic aggression policies that have undermined the US economy and national security. US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he’s ready to impose tariffs on another $267 billion worth of Chinese goods on short notice, on top of the proposed tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports his administration is putting the final touches on. In effect, Trump is threatening to turn the US-China trade conflict into a full-blown trade war. For long, the US has accused China of economic aggression, with the report released by the White House in June elucidating that accusation in detail. The US’ political intention behind propagating a new “China threat” theory is clear: it wants to implement unilateral and protectionist policies and intensify the Sino-US trade friction with the aim of hurting China. Washington claims Bei


By China Daily
September 12, 2018

Opinion

The future is female

​Asia is a powerhouse of growth in the global economy. From the 1980s onwards, economic development across the region has lifted millions out of poverty and doubled Asia’s share of the world economy. However, signs are there that things are moderating. Growth in China and India is no longer in double digits, many countries have to face the challenge of the middle income trap and those at the highest levels of income have tried hard to further boost their annual GDP growth. Add this to the challenge of climate change, ageing populations and increasing inequalities across the region. Politicians, policymakers and pundits have debated what’s driving this trend in detail. Yet to us, pinpointing the source of the issue is simple. Asia has a vast, powerful and dynamic driver of growth that is largely untapped: the extraordinary potential of its women and girls. According to the Asian Deve


By The Straits Times
September 11, 2018

Opinion

Battered by disasters, Japanese remain stoic as ever

Despite typhoons and earthquakes, regular citizens attempt to go about their everyday lives. Public transport services were halted citywide after major tremors shook 


By The Straits Times
September 10, 2018

Opinion

Bangladesh must hone Rohingya policy

Bangladesh must control the narrative on the Rohingya issue, argues one Daily Star opinion piece. In the past we have been painfully aware of the interminable waves of persecution of Rohingya Muslims from the Rakhine state in Myanmar and the consequent foisting of an increasing refugee burden on Bangladesh. But now, nobody is left in any doubt about the intractability of the problem: “Promised” repatriation of Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh to their homes in the Rakhine state is being reneged on. Denied of citizenship rights, returnees would be consigned to a life in camp and restrictive movement with the levers retained to revert to ethnic cleansing at will. The point is you cannot give the reluctant host even a benefit of doubt, especially on the back of the confluence of stepped up diplomatic pressures on Myanmar from within and outside of the UN system to behave responsibly. Of course, these lacked


By Daily Star
September 7, 2018