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Rohingya: Tripartite moot raises hopes, skepticism

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen

Bangladesh is going to host an important tripartite meeting on the Rohingya repatriation issue, which has been frozen for a year, bringing China and Myanmar to the table on Jan. 19. 

The last tripartite meeting was held on Jan. 20 last year in New York, and since then Myanmar has been allegedly postponing the bilateral talks despite repeated attempts by Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said it will be a secretary-level tripartite meeting and hopefully it will be productive. However, he averred that “repatriation is the only solution to end the Rohingya crisis, and there will be no alternative.”
The meeting was supposed to take place this week, but Momen said it has been postponed due to a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has handed over fresh details of an additional 230,000 refugees to Myanmar with their biometric identifications, Md Delwar Hossain, the head of Myanmar wing in the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, told Anadolu Agency.

Bangladesh has so far given complete details of nearly 840,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, but out of them only 42,000 have been verified by the authorities in Yangon and this slow process is causing a delay in the repatriation, he said.

China’s role

A human rights group activist has accused China of helping Myanmar avoid sanctions proposed by international organizations, including the UN, on the Rohingya issue.

China and Myanmar have been very close allies for a long time. They got closer when Western countries sanctioned Myanmar, Ro Nay San Lwin, the co-founder of the UK-based Free Rohingya Coalition, told Anadolu Agency via phone.

Lwin alleged that China along with Russia blocked a UN Security Council resolution against Myanmar on the issue of worst human rights violations of minorities, particularly against Rohingya. He accused both the countries of selling arms and weapons to Myanmar’s army “that used them to kill ethnic minorities.”

He said: “We will closely observe repatriation, as Rohingya’s survivors are skeptical about China’s involvement in the process."

However, China can press Myanmar to repatriate Rohingya, he said, adding: “But the most important issue is to ensure full citizenship, ethnic rights, protection and the right to settle [Rohingya] back in their original places.”

Nonetheless, Rohingya survivors must be consulted before any repatriation agreement, he opined.

Bangladesh asked to strengthen diplomatic mechanisms

Tareque Shamsur Rahman, a geopolitical expert who teaches international relations at Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, told Anadolu Agency that only Bangladesh’s tough stance would put an end to this crisis.

Appreciating the decision of Dhaka to hold a tripartite meeting on the Rohingya issue, he said China is an important country and Bangladesh partner in various projects, and Beijing can play its role in the repatriation of Rohingya refugees.

But he was skeptical that Myanmar could misuse its good economic relations with China and adopt delaying tactics and put hurdles in the repatriation process.

However, the government of US President-elect Joe Biden can help bring an amicable solution to the crisis if Bangladesh strengthens its diplomatic mechanisms, he suggested.