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Myanmar urges Bangladesh to cooperate over Rohingya repatriation

Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army accused of hampering the bilateral repatriation process

Myanmar urges Bangladesh to cooperate over Rohingya repatriation

Union Minister Kyaw Tint Swe (on screens) virtually addresses the general debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly on Sept. 29. (Photo: AFP)

Myanmar has called on Bangladesh to show its genuine political will to cooperate to resolve the issue of Rohingya repatriation.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly via a recorded video message on Sept. 29, Union Minister Kyaw Tint Swe invited the government of Bangladesh to cooperate by strictly adhering to the terms of the signed agreements that were reached in November 2017.

“Should Bangladesh commit itself to the bilateral process, it will find Myanmar a willing partner. Pressure tactics will be futile. Myanmar does not react well to pressure,” he stressed.

He said Myanmar wants to be good neighbors with Bangladesh, bound in a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism, “not merely in words but in deeds.”

The minister has accused the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and its supporters of hampering the bilateral repatriation process.

He told the UN that more than 350 Rohingya from camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh had returned to Myanmar’s Rakhine state of their own volition through unofficial channels.

Not one Rohingya has returned to Rakhine through the official repatriation process after two failures over the plan as many of the refugees refused to return out of fear for their safety.

More than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee their homes in Rakhine in 2017 following a military crackdown that the UN said was executed with “genocidal intent.”

The military and government have vehemently denied the allegations and responded that the military was responding to attacks by Rohingya militants.

Myanmar has been facing legal pressure from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court over atrocities against Rohingya and other ethnic minorities.

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Hate narratives

Kyaw Tint Swe said in the area of human rights promotion and protection, the UN should ensure that its mandate holders adhere strictly to the principles of independence, impartiality and integrity in the exercise of their duties.

“A country should be given time, space and respect for its domestic accountability processes,” he said, adding that “demonization only undermines our investigators and prosecutors.”

He said aggravating the wounds of conflict can undermine unity in Rakhine.

“Hate narratives are not simply confined to hate speech — language that contributes to extreme polarization also amounts to hate narratives,” he noted.

The minister quoted State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s reaffirmation at the ICJ last December that if war crimes or human rights violations have been committed, they will be investigated and prosecuted by Myanmar’s criminal justice system.

“This is our right, our obligation and our commitment, and it is important for vital domestic processes linked to constitutional reform and peace in Myanmar,” he added.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has decried the human rights crisis in Myanmar three years after the military crackdown in Rakhine.

“The situation of many hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees and internally displaced people remains unresolved,” she told the Human Rights Council on Sept. 14.

“National initiatives, including secretive and selective court martials and the National Commission of Inquiry, have been inadequate and fallen short of international standards.” 

Bachelet urged Myanmar to cooperate fully with international judicial and investigative bodies to ensure that “justice is delivered and support the transitional justice processes, which are vital to sustainable peace.”

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