See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

The Rohingya need an answer

Myanmar and Asean neighbours plough ahead with plans to repatriate refugees, ignoring concerns of the stateless minority.


Written by

Updated: June 12, 2019

Repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar’s conflict-torn Rakhine state will be on the table when Asean leaders meet later this month in Bangkok. Also in their hands wil be a report on the positive prospects for repatriation, written by an assessment team that spent months in Rakhine earlier this year. However, any leader convinced that the process will go smoothly would be succumbing to false hope.

The regional grouping, of which Myanmar is also a member, agreed last November in Singapore to help facilitate the return of the Rohingya, who fled a campaign of violence by Myanmar troops and vigilantes beginning in August 2017. Bangladesh and Myanmar last year signed a pact to repatriate hundreds of thousands of the victims. The first batch was supposed to leave camps on the Bangladesh border on the day Asean made its resolution, but the refugees refused to budge, fearing for their safety in Rakhine.

In December, Asean sent Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi along with a team to assess Rakhine’s readiness to receive the refugees. Their final report will be submitted at the Bangkok Asean summit on June 22-23.

Foreign minister Don Pramudwinai insists that Asean, currently chaired by Thailand, is prioritising humanitarian assistance in Rakhine. Don met his Bangladesh and Myanmar counterparts early this year and reported positive responses from both regarding the safe return of displaced residents to Rakhine.

Yet that optimism clashes sharply with the bleaker picture emerging from information delivered by Asean officials and reporters in Rakhine in the past few months. The regional grouping appears to be ignoring the big picture of the Rakhine crisis, instead seeking the hasty and potentially disastrous return of its victims.

While Asean officials acknowledge the complexity of the crisis, their analysis is blinkered by the narrow humanitarian view they have taken. Crucially, the Asean Emergency Response and Assessment Team’s leaked report focuses on just 500,000 refugees, when the international community and United Nations Refugee Commission recognise 741,000 as having fled the violence since 2017.

In fact, more than 900,000 stateless Rohingya refugees live in crowded camps and settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

While Asean estimates that 500,000 will return home within two years, Myanmar authorities are more realistic. A Myanmar minister told The Nation recently that about 300 refugees per day could be repatriated, or just over 100,000 per year if things go smoothly.

Asean has refused the United Nations’ conclusion that the Muslim Rohingya were driven from Rakhine by a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The UN accuses Myanmar military leaders of committing genocide and other crimes against humanity when they enforced a “clearance operation” against the ethnic minority. To save the face of leaders in Nay Pyi Taw, Asean has refrained from addressing the crisis at its root cause – the statelessness of Rohingya and their persecution in Rakhine. The grouping will maintain that stance at the coming Bangkok summit, so as to accommodate Myanmar and ease discussion.

The repatriation process will not go smoothly, however, unless Asean, Myanmar and other stakeholders address the Rakhine crisis in all its complexity.

Nay Pyi Taw has pledged to take back the Rohingya, though the green light must first be given by Dhaka. Not being consulted are the Rohingya themselves, who are reluctant to return to a homeland where nobody can guarantee their safety. Would they be welcomed back by their neighbours in Rakhine? The Rohingya need an answer before they can make a move.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Nation (Thailand)
About the Author: The Nation is a broadsheet, English-language daily newspaper founded in 1971 and published in Bangkok, Thailand.

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

Diplomacy

G20 draft calls for digital economy rules within the year

Digital laws have been proposed before in the past but is gaining traction ahead of the G20s. The leaders’ declaration for this week’s Group of 20 summit will call for creating a framework for drawing up international rules on the digital economy to be called the “Osaka track,” according to a draft obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun. It will also call for achieving results within the year. The G20 leaders are scheduled to gather in Osaka on Friday and Saturday. In the draft, the section on the digital economy is part of a separate “Osaka statement.” The Osaka statement draft welcomes progress in discussions among about 80 interested World Trade Organization member states on an e-commerce accord. The draft expresses the G20’s support for rule creation and other developments in this area through the Osaka track. It states that the leaders vow to collaborate so people all over the world w


By The Japan News
June 27, 2019

Diplomacy

Korea, Saudi seek closer cooperation

The two sign MOUs, deals worth over $8 billion. President Moon Jae-in and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia met in Seoul on Wednesday to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation in a wide range of areas. The crown prince arrived in Seoul earlier in the day and was met by Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon before moving on to Cheong Wa Dae for a welcoming ceremony followed by a meeting with Moon and his top aides. At the meeting, Moon stressed the importance of Korea-Saudi relations, highlighting economic projects between the two countries and Seoul’s involvement in Saudi’s Vision 2030 program. The Vision 2030 program is aimed at reducing the country’s economic dependence on oil and developing its public service sectors. “Korea is a strategic partner in Vision 2030, and the two countries are expanding the horizon of cooperation beyond construction and energy to ICT, smart infr


By The Korea Herald
June 27, 2019

Diplomacy

Iran says US ‘lying’ on talks

Tehran vows to reduce commitments to 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. The United States enacted a new round of sanctions on Monday, targeting Iran’s supreme leader and some senior officials, further escalating tensions between the two sides. US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday, saying he is “imposing hard-hitting sanctions on the supreme leader of Iran and the office of the supreme leader of Iran and many others”. Trump accused Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of being ultimately “responsible for the hostile conduct” of the country. In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that the fresh sanctions prove that Washington is lying about seeking to hold talks with Teheran. “At the same time as you call for negotiations you seek to sanction the foreign minister? It’s o


By China Daily
June 27, 2019

Diplomacy

Chinese aircraft carrier passes through Taiwan Strait

Taiwan says it closely monitored the situation. Taiwan’s military said June 25 it closely monitored the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, as it passed through the Taiwan Strait earlier in the day. Having completed its mission in the South China Sea, the aircraft carrier, accompanied by a number of other combat ships, sailed north through the Taiwan Strait before returning to its home port of Qingdao in Shandong province, according to the defense ministry. The Liaoning is China’s first aircraft carrier and is named after one of its northeastern provinces. The 300-meter-long vessel was refurbished and upgraded from an unfinished Soviet carrier and commissioned in 2012. The Liaoning was observed passing through the Miyako Strait in the East China Sea earlier this month on its way to the Pacific Ocean, where the People’s Liberation Army Navy conducted training operations, according to Japan


By Cod Satrusayang
June 27, 2019

Diplomacy

Japan, Russia to not discuss sensitive territorial issue at G20

Japan, Russia likely to skip agreement on travel to northern territories at G20. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin are unlikely to agree on a framework to facilitate travel to the northern territories at their bilateral meeting to be held as early as Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, according to Japanese government sources. Since April, the two governments have been studying a system to grant people traveling between the two countries and the northern territories special passport and visa treatment. The system would enable joint economic activities without harming the legal positions of Japan and Russia, which both claim sovereignty over the four islands. Japan had been considering a Russian proposal to allow short-term visa exemptions for travel between Hokkaido and Sakhalin in the Russian Far East, with the aim of reaching an


By The Japan News
June 26, 2019

Diplomacy

Vietnam, EU to sign free trade agreement

The agreement will be signed in Hanoi on June 30. The European Council announced on Tuesday that it has approved the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the EU – Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA), and assigned the EU to sign the deals with Vietnam on June 30 in Hanoi The EVFTA and EVIPA are the most ambitious agreements concluded between the EU and a developing country. Once the EVFTA takes effect, over 99 per cent of tariff on goods from both sides will be lifted. Vietnam will remove 65 per cent of import tariff on goods from the EU. Remaining tariffs will be removed in the next decade. Besides offering significant economic opportunities, the trade agreement ensures that trade, investment and sustainable development go hand in hand, by setting the highest standards of labour, safety, environmental and consumer protection. Meanwhile, the EVITA will h


By Viet Nam News
June 26, 2019