By Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - The second phase of talks between a high-level delegation from Myanmar and Rohingya representatives ended in Bangladesh with a deadlock on citizenship rights.
“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,” said one of 35 Rohingya representatives took part in the dialogue on condition of anonymity.
The two-day dialogue between the Myanmar delegation, led by its Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary U Myint Thu, and representatives of Rohingya was held in Bangladesh’s southern Cox’s Bazar district on Saturday.
The three-hour-long meeting on the first day of dialogue ended without any breakthrough. The dialogue continued on Sunday for three and half hours, but no agreement could be reached on the citizenship rights.
“We don’t want to be hopeless. The Myanmar’s delegation team is committed to hold dialogue with Rohingya people again in Bangladesh over the pending issues after consultation with their government,” Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Abul Kalam Azad told Anadolu Agency after the talks.
He added the delegation took note of all demands of the Rohingya in the meeting. “They will leave Bangladesh for Myanmar today and discuss with their leaders about the demands of Rohingya. They will come again to continue dialogue”.
However, the Rohingya representative, without getting citizenship rights and safety guarantee under the presence of international communities, none of them are ready to return to their country.
“The delegation has assured us that we will be given security and access to our previous location. UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] and UNDP [United Nations Development Program] are working there and we will be secured there”, he added.
“But, without citizenship rights, such assurances are not enough for us to return to Myanmar,” he said, adding the Myanmar team proposed to provide Rohingya with cards identifying them newcomers or new migrants.
“It’s nothing new to us. If we agree to this proposal it means that we again fall prey to Myanmar authorities,” he said.
- ‘Genocidal regime’
Meanwhile, Nay San Lwin, campaign coordinator of rights group Free Rohingya Coalition, told Anadolu Agency: “If Myanmar wants to take back Rohingya, they have villages map, houses photos and each family details. They can rebuild everything and send lists to Bangladesh to bring back the people who fled from the killing field.”
He believed Myanmar is visiting Bangladesh to ease international pressure. “I don’t think we will gain anything from dialogue with genocidal regime. They regime hasn’t abandoned the genocidal policy against Rohingya yet,” he added.
Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh on Nov. 23, 2017. In November last, the first scheduled Rohingya repatriation was halted as Rohingya refugees expressed unwillingness to return to their homeland, Myanmar, calling it “unsafe” for return.
A recent study conducted by Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), an Australia-based think tank, said that Myanmar has "minimal preparation" to support a safe, dignified, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees taking shelter in neighboring Bangladesh.
The research mapped the current status of 392 Rohingya settlements identified by the UN as damaged or destroyed during the 2017 crackdown and found more than 320 settlements with no sign of reconstruction, according to key findings of the report.
Based on the satellite images provided by the UN Operational Satellite Applications Program, the think tank claimed they also found new proof of crackdowns as late as 2019.
- 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.
*SM Najmus Sakib in Dhaka contributed to this story.