In­ter­na­tional news blurbs

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Ar­vaa Bal­sara News Writer

The vi­o­lence that erupted over five months ago in the western Rakhine state of Myan­mar, lead­ing to the mi­gra­tion of over 650,000 eth­nic Ro­hingya to Bangladesh, may fi­nally have an end in sight as the Myan­mar and Bangladesh gov­ern­ments have ar­ranged for the re­turn of these refugees to their homes.

Al­though the Ro­hingya have been heav­ily per­se­cuted in Myan­mar for decades, the cur­rent vi­o­lence can be traced back to the state of emer­gency de­clared in Rakhine in 2012, which al­lowed mil­i­tary con­trol in the prov­ince. Ten­sions be­tween the mil­i­tary and the Ro­hingya re­sulted in Ro­hingya mil­i­tants at­tack­ing gov­ern­ment forces in Au­gust of 2017. In re­sponse, se­cu­rity forces launched an at­tack, de­scribed by the UN as eth­nic cleans­ing, that killed over 6,000 in the first month alone. Many Ro­hingya fled to Bangladesh in re­sponse to the vi­o­lence. How­ever, in an agree­ment on Tues­day, Jan­uary 15, Myan­mar and Bangladesh pro­vided de­tails re­gard­ing the repa­tri­a­tion deal signed in Novem­ber 2017. The repa­tri­a­tion of Ro­hingya refugees in Bangladesh will be­gin as early as next week, and will be car­ried out over the next two years.

The United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will be as­sist­ing Bangladesh and Myan­mar with the repa­tri­a­tion process, but urges the gov­ern­ments to en­sure the vol­un­tary re­turn of the Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity to their homes. In­ter­na­tional aid or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Amnesty In­ter­na­tional have raised con­cerns about the repa­tri­a­tion, claim­ing that the re­turn of the Ro­hingya is “pre­ma­ture” due to the “years of en­trenched dis­crim­i­na­tion and abuse.” The or­ga­ni­za­tion stressed the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional pro­tec­tion for the Ro­hingya in the process, “the Ro­hingya have an ab­so­lute right to re­turn to and re­side in Myan­mar, but there must be no rush to re­turn peo­ple to a sys­tem of apartheid. Any forcible re­turns would be a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.”

One of the ma­jor chal­lenges to repa­tri­a­tion is the lack of ac­count­abil­ity within the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment. The in­cum­bent State Chan­cel­lor of Myan­mar Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to con­demn the vi­o­lence against the Ro­hingya. Re­gard­ing the mil­i­tary-led eth­nic cleans­ing, Suu Kyi has dis­puted the UN’S char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of the vi­o­lence.

In ad­di­tion to the fail­ure of the Myan­mese lead­ers to ad­dress the per­se­cu­tion of the Ro­hingya peo­ple, the repa­tri­a­tion plan will re­sult in them be­ing trans­ferred from refugee camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myan­mar, as their homes were burned down when they were forced to flee. As a re­sult, those who opt to re­turn will ef­fec­tively be liv­ing in a limbo state un­til the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment de­vel­ops a con­crete plan to re­lo­cate them.

At this crit­i­cal junc­ture the gov­ern­ment will have to de­velop ad­di­tional so­cial pro­grams to in­te­grate the Ro­hingya into Myan­mese so­ci­ety to pre­vent the sit­u­a­tion from de­te­ri­o­rat­ing into vi­o­lence once more.

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