Dhaka, January 16: Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to complete the repatriation of thousands of Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar within the next two years. Myanmar has agreed to accept 1500 Rohingya each week for the next two years.
Bangladesh and Myanmar foreign ministries informed of the repatriation in a statement issued on January 16. According to the statement, Bangladesh would be setting up five transit camps on either side of the border. Myanmar, in its statement, claimed of building a transit camp with the capacity of housing 30,000 the returning migrants. The repatriation process will be starting from January 23, 2018.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has raised concerns about forcefully extraditing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya across the border, hoping “that refugees will be able to return home when they themselves choose to.”
While talking in a press conference, UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic informed that some major changes need to be overcome to ensure successful repatriation. “These include ensuring that refugees are informed about the situation in their areas of origin and potential return and consulted on their wishes; that their safety is ensured throughout – on departure, in transit and on return; and that the environment in the areas of return is conducive for safe and sustainable return,” he said.
More than 740,000 Rohingya Muslims had fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine state in Myanmar amidst racial violence in 2016 and 2017. The attacks by Rohingya insurgent on the security posts of Myanmar army had resulted in a fierce military backlash. Around 6700 Rohingya including 730 children were killed in August 2017 alone.
Sources – Reuters , BBC
The Rohingya Muslims, troubled and in an exodus, have been struggling to find their identity and live a peaceful life. In a rare admission of wrongs, the Burmese troops and villagers were behind the killing of a number of Rohingya Muslims, during insurgent attacks at the beginning of September. The bodies were found in a mass grave in Rakhine state’s Inn Din Village, the military’s commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing, said in a statement on Facebook. The local Buddhist villagers had forced the men into a grave they had dug.
In just a few months more than 6,50,000 members of the Rohingya community fled across the border into Bangladesh. The United Nations has branded the actions as ethnic cleansing.Myanmar insists they were carrying a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
“200 Bengali terrorists attacked using sticks and swords”, which led to a clearance operation in September by the security forces. This statement was made on the Facebook page of its commander-in-chief. The Rohingya Muslims are referred to as Bengalis, which the minority dislikes as it implies they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
The statement on the social media page mentions the captives should have been handed over to the police, but the migrants were attacking unceasingly and had destroyed two military vehicles with explosives. The military decided to start killing as according to them situations were out of control. Angry ethnic Rakhine Buddhists wanted to kill the minority and stabbed them after forcing them into a grave on the outskirts of the village. The members of the security forces proceeded to shoot them, the military said.
The statement also affirms strict actions against the villagers and security officials involved in the heinous participation. The extensive investigation has featured the Burmese military condemning their mistakes.
Sources – Washington Post, The Guardian
According to reports from The Guardian, two journalists from Reuters have been held by prosecutors in Myanmar on the charge of violating the State’s Official Secrets Act. The lawyers stated that the indictment entails a maximum of 14 years of imprisonment.
The two accused, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, covered the Rohingya Muslims crisis in the western state of Rakhine and reported for Reuters. They were detained on December 12, 2017, during their meeting with a group of police officers over dinner. The police suspected them of causing security breaches by procuring undisclosed documents from the police. It was the same police officers who were in charge of Rakhine state where the security forces were condemned for human rights violation of the Rohingya Muslims. Their ill-treatment of the Rohingya’s is said resulted in the migration of 650,000 people to Bangladesh.
Than Zaw, the lawyer of the reporters stated that he pled for the immediate bail of his clients. However, the judge said that the request will be reviewed during the next hearing on January 23. Than Zaw also drew attention to the lack of medical aid given to Wa Lone, who is suffering from a hernia through the course of his detention
Reports from BBC suggested that the government arrested the journalists for illegally possessing secret information with the objective of distributing it to international media. Protesting against this, an army of journalists clad in black, gathered outside the court on January 10th and disputed against the arrest of their colleagues.
In the backdrop of the Rohingya crisis, the civilian government of Myanmar under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate has been criticized by governments and media groups around the world. The press freedom of the country is questioned in the light of the threats issued to journalists.
Sources – Reuters, Arab News
In what can be termed a propaganda move, Pakistan based Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) i.e. the charity wing of terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba has provided millions of cash in order to help the Rakhine Muslims in need. The cash and the aid materials were distributed to around 300 muslims by FIF volunteers at Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp of Myanmar-fled refugees.
According to sources from the intelligence wing, FIF has been in contact with other Bangladesh-based Islamist groups and has been operating nearby the camp, The Indian Express reported. Foreign Operations head of FIF also mentioned that in spite “extremely risky conditions” the organisation has been able to send relief on time.
As reported by Devoted to Humanity website, the LeT wing has been providing support to the ‘besieged Muslims’ in Rakhine and they plan to expand their support activities throughout Myanmar soon.
The support has also been extended to Arakan Rakhine Salvation Army (ARSA) i.e. the armed wing of Rakhine rebels. ARSA has been engaging in violence against the Armed Forces from Myanmar and it has been ARSA’s incessant killing of Myanmar army officers that led to the recent refugee influx from Rakhine, Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
The bone of contention is the unabashed operation of FIF in Pakistan. United Nations and the United States of America has been continuously issuing notices to the organisation and is under scanner for being blacklisted.
Sources: The Indian Express
The Supreme Court on September 18, 2017, decided to hear the plea filed by Rohingya Muslims on October 3. Two Rohingya immigrants, who filed the plea, asked for apex court’s intervention in regards with the deportation of the Rohingyas to Myanmar.
According to the media reports, the Union home ministry has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in which it called Rohingya Muslims a security threat to the country, reported Firstpost. The centre also added that the right to move and settle in the country can only be enjoyed by the citizens of India and any illegal immigrant will face the jurisdiction.
According to a report in the Times of India, the centre will present all the intelligence inputs before the court on October 3.
The Supreme Court has also refused to issue any notice to the National Human Rights Commission, which supports the Rohingyas and is ready to argue against the deportation.
Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren RIjiju, said, “It is a sensitive matter. Whatever government will do, will be in nation’s interest.”, reported the Statesman.
Image Sources: Reuters
A muslim woman executive of Bhartiya Janta Party’s state majdoor morcha in Assam was expelled from the party on Sunday over her Facebook post that supported Rohingya muslim refugees. The evicted Benazir Arfan claimed to have been arbitrarily suspended without getting a chance to explain herself.
According to Indian Express, Dilip Saikia, General Secretary of the Assam state BJP unit said, “Benazir Arfan has been expelled after she failed to give any satisfactory reply to the show cause notice she was served last Thursday on why disciplinary action should not be taken against her for organizing a rally over the Rohingya Muslim issue in Guwahati without bringing the matter to the party forum.”
Arfan, in her post, she urged people to participate in the fast that protested the treatment given to the Rohingya muslims by Myanmar. She clarified her stand stating that her choice of words were misinterpreted and termed her expulsion an ‘insult’ to her loyalty towards the party.
She declared that she will take up the matter to the higher authorities. Rebuffing her claims, Saikia added that it is not for the first time she is flouting the party rules but has previously raised issues on inappropriate social forums.
Arfan had previously been BJP’s face in anti- triple talaq campaign in Assam.
Sources: DNA, Indian Express
Image Source: Facebook/ Benazir Arfan