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12 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 11 July, 2018 11:35:10 PM

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Rohingya crises

High-profile visits yield nothing so far

Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan
High-profile visits yield nothing so far

Dhaka is set to receive yet more high-profile international dignitaries today amidst continued arrival of Rohingyas to Cox’s Bazar from Rakhine that is a clear violation of the repatriation deal signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar on November 23, 2017.

United Nations secretary-general’s special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener and Malaysian defence minister Mohamad Sabu are due to arrive today to meet the government hierarchies and to visit Cox’s Bazar to interact with the Rohingyas in the different settlements.

The trip of the UN chief’s envoy, a Swiss national, is taking place within two weeks of the joint visit by the UN secretary-general and World Bank president, during which they failed to provide any immediate hope of the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to their homes in Rakhine. Rather, they called for medium and long-term preparations to deal with the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, who had to cross the border to escape the unprecedented atrocities orchestrated by the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from other ethnic groups in Rakhine.

Against such a background, officials of the government and international organisations said that Bangladesh is not expecting anything from the visit of the UN chief’s maiden visit to the country since her appointment on April 24.

This is a kind of familiarisation visit to understand the gravity of the problem and listening to the persecuted people, they said.

The officials said that the special envoy is unlikely to say anything other than her employer, the UN secretary-general.

The Malaysian defence minister is expected to reiterate his country’s support for Bangladesh in dealing with the crisis.

About the visits, the officials said that their presence at the Rohingya camps and meetings with government hierarchies only attract international headlines, but do not do ‘the real thing’, the safe and dignified return of the persecuted people to their homes in Rakhine.

According to the deal signed between the two countries on November 23, 2017, the repatriation should have begun by January 22.

According to the officials, let alone the beginning of the repatriation, Rohingyas are still arriving in Cox’s Bazar.

On average, they said that about 50 Rohingyas are received by the reception centres set up along the international border between Bangladesh and Myanmar though it is clearly stated in the deal that Naypyitaw would stop the influx immediately.

To a question, a top government official told The Independent, “Based on ground reality, it is anybody’s guess as to when the repatriation will begin.”

While in Bangladesh, apart from visiting Cox’s Bazar, special envoy Burgener will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, few ministers and different interlocutors while the Malaysian defence minister will meet the prime minister before leaving for Cox’s Bazar.

Earlier, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy visited Myanmar from June 12-21.

The officials said that her engagements in Myanmar were understandably much extensive and wider than that will be in Bangladesh, as the root causes to this protracted problem lie in Myanmar.

During her long visit, she met, among others, with state counsellor and de facto leader  Aung San Suu Kyi, commander-in-chief senior General Min Aung Hlaing, speaker of Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house of parliament) T Khun Myat, speaker of Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house of parliament) Mahn Win Khine Than, minister in the state counsellor’s office Kyaw Tint Swe, chair of legal affairs and special cases assessment commission  Thura Shwe Mann, chairman of the election commission Hla Thein, the Rakhine state government including chief minister Nyi Pu, conflict-affected communities and families in Rakhine state, the internally displaced persons (IDPs), people currently displaced along the international border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, representatives of Myanmar’s civil society, members of women associations, as well as with the United Nations country team, the diplomatic community and international NGOs.

In all meetings, she stressed the need for inclusive solutions that integrated the views and important voices of women.

In this first visit, the special envoy focused on listening to all sides to

better understand their diverse perspectives with a view to building trust and confidence among various stakeholders, and establishing positive relations while promoting the key principles of the UN.

She stressed the importance of taking stock of the recent positive steps taken by the government of Myanmar, and held constructive discussions with all interlocutors, focusing on the situation in Rakhine state, the need for credible fact-finding, democratisation and elections, and the peace process, including the implementation of the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord.

She underlined the readiness of the UN to strengthen its support to Myanmar in line with the values of the organisation, including promotion and protection of human rights. All interlocutors expressed their wish for peace and development in Myanmar, and shared their frank assessment of the challenges that they were facing.

Burgener emphasised that she would aim to serve as a bridge between the UN and Myanmar, as well as between the different stakeholders, and help formulate solutions that could draw on the comparative experiences and expertise of the organisation.

In all discussions, she underlined the importance of accountability, which she highlighted was essential for genuine reconciliation.

The envoy urged for credible fact-finding measures, and highlighted the readiness on the part of the UN and the international community to cooperate in this regard.

While noting the complexities of the situation on the ground, she expressed the hope that current efforts aimed at addressing the root causes, including through the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State - in particular ending restrictions on freedom of movement and granting citizenship to those eligible - would soon lead to an environment that would be conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of the IDPs and refugees to their place of origin or choice.

Burgener also expressed her support to the implementation of the November 23, 2017 MoU between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The special envoy has also planned to visit Thailand and China before her next consultations at the UN headquarters in New York.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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