Myanmar blames Rohingya repatriation failure on Bangladesh


YANGON — Myanmar on Friday pushed blame for its second failed attempt to repatriate the Rohingya on Bangladesh, a day after not a single refugee turned up to return to conflict-scarred Rakhine State. 

The Myanmar military waged a brutal crackdown on the stateless Muslim minority in western Rakhine State, leading to an exodus of more than 740,000 Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh. 

The region remains riven by religious and ethnic conflict. 

The Rohingya who stayed remain confined in squalid camps or villages with no freedom of movement.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Despite a 2017 pact signed by the two countries, the first repatriation efforts have failed, with virtually no Rohingya agreeing to return without guarantees of safety and citizenship.

A fresh push was to begin Thursday, with both governments vowing to repatriate nearly 3,500 Rohingya, but this again fell flat when no one turned up for buses intended to ferry them across the border. 

Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued the blame game Friday. 

“Smooth repatriation for the displaced persons would require the adherence to the bilateral agreement,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said.

The ministry put the onus on Bangladesh for failing to distribute the correct paperwork, so-called “verification forms” to potential returnees, a controversial form of ID that falls short of granting Rohingya citizenship.

“This procedure was not adhered to,” it said, adding Bangladesh had also “ignored” a request to expedite the return of more than 400 Hindu refugees.

The ministry confirmed China and Japan had facilitated repatriation, and it had been the Chinese government that informed them earlier this month of Bangladesh’s intent to re-start the process.

Dhaka is eager for the Rohingya’s return, with its resources severely strained by nearly a million refugees living in camps.

Thursday’s no-show by the refugees was “very disappointing” for Bangladesh, said foreign minister Mr A.K. Abdul Momen.

He added the Rohingya were taking the country “hostage” by insisting on their demands for citizenship.

But rights groups warn that conditions are not right for repatriation, and UN investigators say the 2017 violence warrants the prosecution of top generals for “genocide”. 

Any Rohingya returning to Myanmar “will be going back into a situation of persecution”, Mr Christopher Sidoti, a UN fact-finding team member, told AFP this week.

The Myanmar military is also currently locked in fierce fighting with the Arakan Army, a group claiming to fight for autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine people. 

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar