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Rohingya Repatriation Deal Inked in November: A Short Escape for Myanmar

Mohammed Ayub (TU)
RB Opinion
November 27, 2017

We have waited eagerly for the positive outcome of the bilateral meeting between Myanmar and Bangladesh last November 22, 2017. To dismay, the deal was full of dubious texts and ulterior motives. Here is how, based on the deal signed by both parties on November 23, 2017.

Fig.1 The deal inked by both Parties (Photo credit to Poppy McPherson Twitter)

The deal has categorically divided between the Rohingyas who arrived after 9th October,2016, 25th August 2017, and Rohingyas who have been living registered and unregistered camps since 1978. There is no urgency to differentiate between the two as all are Rohingyas who took shelter from Burmese brutalities in various points of times. Definitely, there may be some hidden propagandas from the side of Myanmarese to accept the early-come group not with the fresh ones. See the extract below(Fig.2). 

Fig.2 Extract from Page #2 Paragraph 3 

And in the paragraph number of 5 of same page (See Fig. 3), it was mention that “return of Myanmar residents in earlier phases” will be based of 1992 Joint Statement signed by MoFA of Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the discussion held on November 22, 2017. Here, series of confusion arises from the texts of this paragraph. And more specifically, it is ambiguously texted on which return of Myanmar residents will be based on 1992 MoU? What does it mean by “earlier phases”? 

And Bangladesh was saying before that the repatriation deal will be based on modified 1992 MoU, and on also Bangladesh PM’s five points proposal made at the 72nd UNGA session on September 21 of this year. The five points proposals are; 

(1) Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State immediately and forever.

(2) Secretary General of the United Nations should immediately send a Fact-Finding Mission to Myanmar.

(3) All civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity must be protected in Myanmar. For that "safe zones" could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.

(4) Ensure sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh to their homes in Myanmar.

(5) The recommendations of Kofi Annan Commission Report must be immediately implemented unconditionally and in its entirety.

From the above five points, only point number (4) is seen in this deal and proposal number (5) is put in the last part of deal as a show piece. The current deal shows Bangladesh’s stance on Rohingya repatriation is flexible and is not met with practicality. And till on the very day of signing the deal, the torching of the villages, killing and looting of the belongings of Rohingya are continuing in Arakan. 

In the general guiding principles (Fig.4), paragraph 2 mentioned that returnees will be allowed to their original place or safety and secure place near it of their choice. Why dubious? This leaves a serious loop hole for Myanmarese to manipulate the deal, meaning some will be allowed to their original places and some will be not. Those Rohingya’s places(Lands) will be for China as a gift for protecting her from UNSC against vote. And it is also mentioned that returnees will not be kept longer but shorter period in temporary shelter. That means Myanmar has plan to keep returnees in IDP camps with false promise of settling to original place in a very short course of time. One cannot forget that thousands of Rohingyas are suffering in IDP Sittwe since 2012 with no concrete reasons of why not settling in the original places. 

Fig.4 General Guiding Principles 

Fig.3 Paragraph 5 of page # 2

And it was emphasized that freedom of movement for Rohingya will be only within Rakhine(fig.4) and not throughout all Burma as has been restricted for Rohingyas since 1990s. Even in Rakhine state, it must be inconformity to the existing laws and regulations. Form these points, one can easily conclude that Myanmar does not want to recognize Rohingya as citizens, and does have ulterior motives of confining Rohingya within Arakan. Anywhere in the world, is there any law which prescribes to its citizens the rules and regulations for the freedom of movement with the country? Till date, Rohingyas have to hold temporary travel permit even to visit one’s parents’ house. It is clear that Myanmar wants Rohingya to keep in those same restrictions. At the end of the paragraph, the deal exposes that all returnees will be issued NVC. NVC is a mechanism that was targeted Rohingya to making them foreigners though Rohingyas had identifications card as other nationals of Myanmar. NVC was introduced after 2012 violence and very few Rohingyas were forcibly made to accept those cards. 

And in Paragraph 5, it was expressed that returnees who have cases in the involvement of terrorism or criminal activities will punished. As the whole world know, Myanmar’s rule of law is discriminatory towards Rohingyas and therefore, Rohingyas have no trust Myanmar’s rule of law. The returnees will be criminalized on false grounds as have been done in 2012, 2016 and 2017 majority of whom are still serving their jail terms. 

Fig.5 Discriminatory policy 

In Paragraph 16(Fig.5), it stated that both Governments will refrain from conceiving and implementing any policy that is discriminatory to any particular community that violates universally agreed principles on human rights. To what extend you understand these phrases? Myanmar has been labeling Rohingyas as Bengali since long. Is not that implementing discriminatory policy towards Rohingya and Bengali people? Universally, any race or community has the right to give their names as they wish. They have the right to be called them as other people want themselves to be called by other.

In the final part of the deal, it talked about implementing Annan’s commission report. Very pretty move from the side of Myanmarese Government. If you (Myanmar) are(is) not going to place all the returnees at their original places, to issue NVC cards, to strict freedom of Movement, then what use of implementing Annan’s report in which all the mention points are not favorable?


Strictly speaking, Myanmar surpass Bangladesh in this deal because the points in the deal are impractical to accept from the side of Rohingyas. And Myanmar just was successful for another few weeks to weaken international pressures. All the Rohingyas who took shelter in Bangladesh are seriously denying the repatriation according to this deal signed on 23rd November, 2017. And from the right groups also are alarming voices that the deal did not meet international standard and repatriation need to be monitored by the outside world. 

Remarks: The full text of the deal is from Poppy McPherson (@poppymcp) Twitter 

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