By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - For the first time, Japan has offered to mediate between Bangladesh and Myanmar on peaceful Rohingya repatriation in its capital Tokyo in any convenient period if both sides agree.
“We have just received the offer, we will discuss it in our internal forum and then take decision,” Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said at a media briefing on Tuesday night after a bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, in Dhaka.
The Japanese foreign minister who is on a three-day visit arrived in Bangladesh on Monday night and proceeded to Rohingya refugee camps in southern Cox’s Bazar district on Tuesday morning to assess the condition of the world’s largest refugee people.
Returning from Cox’s Bazar, Kono held a bilateral meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart in capital Dhaka to discuss on various issues of mutual interest including stalled Rohingya repatriation case.
“Japan has huge investments in both Myanmar including its Rakhine state and Bangladesh, they [Japan] are interested to solve the Rohingya crisis as it’s vital for peace and stability in the whole region,” Momen said, adding that otherwise Japan’s investments in both states will fall in risk.
Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh on Nov. 23, 2017. In November 2018, the first scheduled Rohingya repatriation was halted as Rohingya refugees expressed unwillingness to go back to their homeland, Myanmar, calling it “unsafe” for return.
Two lengthy meetings between a high-profile delegation team of Myanmar and representatives of Rohingya people ended in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday and Sunday without any breakthrough as both sides were still in long apart over the most-demanded citizenship to the persecuted Rohingya people.
“They [Myanmar government] have still not agreed to amend the controversial 1982 Citizenship Law to provide citizenship rights to Rohingya and they want us to return as new migrants or newcomers,” a Rohingya representative told Anadolu Agency on Monday and added that without full citizenship and safety guarantee with the vigilance of international community they will not return.
Momen added, “Japanese Foreign Minister will go to Naypyidaw tomorrow [Wednesday] and he will talk with Myanmar government on behalf of Bangladesh’s demand to take back Rohingya as soon as possible.”
Japan will also raise the demands of Rohingya people before Myanmar government, he said.
Terming solvency of Rohingya crisis important for Japan, Momen said: “We told Japan that extremism may grow if Rohingya repatriation does not start soon and so for the safety of their huge investments in both countries this crisis should be solved.”
Asked what Bangladesh's stand would be if China offers mediation on Rohingya repatriation as China is another big ally of Myanmar as well as Bangladesh, Momen said: “It is not a problem for us. We will maintain a balance diplomatic policy.”
On citizenship rights of Rohingya he said: “It is the internal matter of Myanmar. We do not want to enter into that issue.”
“[But] we always want safety, security and dignified return of Rohingya. Japan is also agreed with us on free mobility of Rohingya in Myanmar,” he added.
- Persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.