Rohingya are again a no-show for repatriation

The Myanmar government today was supposed to accept a first group of 3,454 displaced people. The Bangladeshi Foreign Minister accuses Rohingya leaders and NGOs of discouraging the return of refugees. In Myanmar, Rohingya procrastination reinforces doubts about their actual desire for repatriation.

Cox’s Bazar (AsiaNews) - Cox’s Bazar (AsiaNews) – The second attempt at voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees from border camps in Bangladesh to Myanmar has failed.

"We have been waiting since 9am (0300 GMT) to take any willing refugees for repatriation," said Khaled Hossain, a Bangladesh official in charge of the Teknaf refugee camp. "Nobody has yet turned up."

Last week, Myanmar and Bangladesh announced that, starting today, Myanmar would accept a first group of 3,454 displaced people.

However, doubts about the success of the operation emerged two days ago during interviews between representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC), the Bangladeshi Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC) and 100 Rohingya (21 families) who had applied for repatriation.

Most of them said they did not want to return to Myanmar unless their safety was ensured and they were granted citizenship.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said both Bangladesh and Myanmar are “fully ready” to resume the repatriation of Rohingyas, but some Rohingya leaders and NGOs are reportedly discouraging them to return.

On the other side of the border, in Rakhine, Rohingya procrastination is reinforcing doubts of the local population about their actual desire for repatriation. It is widely believed that the Muslim minority is playing for time to gain legitimacy and get the international community to intervene.

“Rakhine Muslims, however, want to create an Islamic state on our lands,” Hla Khine, a young Buddhist native of Rakhine, previously told AsiaNews.

“Even the insistence with which they want to be called 'Rohingya' rather than 'Bengali' is aimed at achieving this goal,” he believes. “By obtaining ethnic recognition, they think they can have more leverage to pursue their territorial claims.”

However, “the story that they are denied citizenship by our government is slanted. It is they who refuse to include the term 'Bengali' in their papers, which is what citizens of Indian origin have done quietly.”

“On the border with Thailand, there are nine refugee camps for people displaced by fighting between ethnic militia and the Myanmar army. There are thousands of Shan, Mon, Chin, and Kachin refugees, all ethnic groups that are native of Myanmar. They too are denied identity papers, but for them the world is not outraged . . ."