GP Insights # 146, 14 September 2019
A BBC report published on the 10 September 2019 showed how Muslim Rohingya villages in Myanmar had been demolished and replaced by police barracks, government buildings, and refugee relocation camps. The Myanmar government had invited others to see the facilities they had put in place to receive a large number of returnees. Although access to Rakhine is restricted, the people invited were taken in a government envoy to see the facilities.
They were then taken to Hla Poe Kaung transit camp, which would be housing facility for 25,000 returnees that could stay for two months before moving to permanent homes. This camp was completed almost a year ago is said to be in poor condition where even the communal toilets have fallen apart. It was built on the site of two Rohingya villages, Haw Ri Tu Lar and Thar Zay Kone that were demolished after the violence in 2017.
What is the background?
The report states that four locations that were shown were secured facilities that had been built on what satellite images show were once Rohingya settlements. Thus, proving that there has been a deliberate eradication of Rohingya communities. Kyein Chaung a relocation camp was the next camp there were taken to, here houses have been built with Japanese and Indian government funding as long-term accommodation for returning refugees. However, a Rohingya village called Myar Zin was bulldozed to clear land for this camp, which lies close to a massive new barracks for the Border Guard Police.
They were also taken to Inn Din, it was reported that there remains no trace of the Muslim quarter and the place has been replaced with barbed-wire fences encircling an extensive new Border Guard Police barracks. Further, the Rakhine Buddhist residents told the reporters that they would never accept Muslims living next to them again.
The issue dates back to 25 August 2017, when Rohingya militants attacked several police posts causing harm and death to several officers. This led to the authorities burning down villages, civilian attacks and many other atrocities that have been described as genocide. The United Nations stated that it was a "textbook example" of ethnic cleansing and the Rohingyas’ call it a "Genocide Remembrance Day". This caused about 750000 to flee their native state and move into parts of Bangladesh and India.
A repatriation deal was signed in January of 2018. However, it failed to materialize because once again the Myanmar government has constantly denied the demands of the Rohingyas’ which is their demand for integrated citizenships as well as the return of lands, and for military leaders to be held accountable for abuses.
In August if 2019 a reparation deal reached after a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar was established were, they were to start repatriating Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, however the Cox Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh strongly resisted this move with not even a single one coming to the board the buses and trucks that were lined up to take them across the border.
Myanmar has offered to allow the Rohingya freedom of movement if they accept a national ID card called the Rohingya National Verification Cards (NVCs), which Rohingya believe would mean accepting their status as illegal immigrants.
What does it mean?
If the claims made in this report are correct, it highlights the fact that Myanmar is not interested in the repatriation of these people. If the basic provisions such as campsites are not maintained, it shows the level of preparedness that Myanmar has taken to solve this issue. Thus, these half-hearted promises and actions of the Myanmar government would only cause more problems to this issue.
Further, the Rohingya crisis is not the only conflict or problem that Myanmar has to deal with, there are many other refugee conflicts and other internal problem that the state is facing and thus this issue only becomes one of the many problems that they have to address. Thus, this problem may not be a priority for Myanmar to look at immediately.
The condition in Bangladesh is getting worse too. The burden of this issue is getting too heavy for them to handle and in the name of tightening the grip, some of the actions such as shutting down on network in the camp and prohibition of the sale of sim cards to the refugees may not curb the problem. Thus, whether this will be better or worse remains the question.