FREE ROHINGYA COALITION CONDEMNS PREMATURE REPATRIATION OF ROHINGYAS
1 November 2018
The Free Rohingya Coalition is deeply troubled by yesterday’s announcement by Bangladesh and Myanmar that both countries will begin repatriating Rohingyas in mid-November.
We are Rohingya activists and international supporters who have been extremely appreciative of the political leadership of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her compassionate embrace of Rohingyas, which has won worldwide praise and admirations.
So we are saddened and shocked by Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Md. Shahidul Haque telling the media that: “we are looking forward to start the repatriation in mid-November”. The Free Rohingya Coalition is, therefore, extremely disturbed that the Government of Bangladesh might be prepared to resort to the unconscionable and internationally illegal practices that characterized previous waves of repatriation.
The Rohingya have long been very much aware of the past waves of bilateral repatriations since 1978 —particularly the 1978 and 1992/93 large scale repatriations — wherein a total of nearly 500,000 Rohingyas were sent back to Myanmar under questionable circumstances, and with UNHCR’s awareness of the unfavourable and unsafe conditions for repatriation once the Rohingyas were back in their homeland of Myanmar. The two waves of exodus of the past 2 years — in 2016 and 2017 — which resulted in the cross-border deportation of nearly 1 million Rohingyas, have proved Bangladesh’s policy failure in forcibly repatriating thousands of Rohingyas back.
This time, not even the UN High Commission for the Refugees can stomach this repatriation, which will be tantamount to refoulment, an illegal act of expulsion of individuals who deserve protection and refugee.
Chris Melzer, the UNHCR’s senior external officer based in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, openly opposed the latest development: “UNHCR was not a party to that agreement. We would advise against imposing any timetable or target figures for repatriation in respect of the voluntary nature and sustainability of return. It is unclear if refugees know their names are on this list that has been cleared by Myanmar. They need to be informed. They also need to be consulted if they are willing to return … It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature.”
Neither Bangladesh nor the Myanmar civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi has been able to assuage Rohingyas’ widespread and well-founded fear that their lives, families and communities will once again face further attacks once they are back in their homeland of Western Myanmar.
Only a week ago on 24 October, the UN Fact Finding Mission Chief and former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman officially told the Security Council that Myanmar’s genocide is “on-going” — pointing to the unchanging nature of the structures of genocidal repression and persecution, the same military leadership and the same public opinion which calls for the extermination of the Rohingyas.
It is widely acknowledged that neither Suu Kyi not her bureaucratic representatives led by permanent secretary Mr Myint Thu who came to negotiate the latest bilateral deal in Dhaka, have any control or influence over either armed Rakhine nationalists or Myanmar security forces.
Suu Kyi’s representative Myint Thu was heard promising the “esteemed people” of the Rohingyas in the camps 300 elementary schools, seed money for businesses, future jobs in an industrial park under construction, prefabricated homes, rows of toilets,mobile clinics, 10-days of exam coaching for Rohingya distance education students, and the official offer of a pathway to citizenship via NVC-cards – which Rohingyas have risked their lives rejecting.
Neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh nor international donors appear to grasp the fundamental driver behind periodic waves of the exodus of Rohingya from their homeland in Northern Rakhine: the hellish conditions which Myanmar’s genocidal policies have produced, and since August 2017, large scale mass slaughter, systematic mass rape, and the burning down of nearly 400 villages.
Dr Maung Zarni, a noted Burmese genocide scholar, and coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition, said: “sending Rohingyas back to Myanmar without their consent is sending them back to genocide with the hollow promise of new amenities and opportunities”.
As a grassroots international network of genocide scholars, rights activists and Rohingya exiles, with a broad base of supporters among Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, we have been extremely supportive of the Government of Dhaka and sought to cooperate in whatever ways we could.
We therefore appeal to the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that no Rohingyas be sent back to Myanmar’s killing fields, without addressing Rohingyas’ need for a protection mechanism or “safe zone”, as Sheik Hasina has proposed to the United Nations in two consecutive General Assemblies.
Natalie Brinham “Genocide cards”: Rohingya refugees on why they risked their lives to refuse ID cards, Open Democracy, 21 October 2018
“‘Primitive people’: the untold story of UNHCR’s historical engagement with Rohingya refugees”.
Nay San Lwin, Coordinator for Media Relations and Campaigns at firstname.lastname@example.org; +49 176 62139138
Tun Khin, Coordinator for International Outreach at email@example.com; +44 788 871 4866
Maung Zarni, Coordinator for Strategic Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org; +44 771 047 3322