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Bangladesh, Myanmar resume talks over Rohingya verification

Bangladesh and Myanmar on Thursday resumed talks on repatriation of displaced Rohingyas back to their homeland nearly a year after an apparent lull of direct interactions since the February 1, 2021 military takeover of the country, the foreign ministry said.

“The first ever meeting of the newly formed technical level Ad-Hoc Task Force for Verification of the Displaced Persons from Rakhine (Rohingyas) was held today virtually between Bangladesh and Myanmar,” a foreign office statement said in Dhaka.

It said “both sides expressed readiness” to continue working closely to address “reasons causing delay in the verification” of the past residency of the displaced people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state during the technical level discussion.

According to the statement Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Shah Rizwan Hayat, who works under disaster management ministry’s purview, and Myanmar’s Deputy Director General of Immigration and Population ministry Ye Tun Oo led their respective sides in the talks.

It said the Myanmar delegation detailed “the technical difficulties and information gaps” on the issue but assured their counterpart of their cooperation to complete pending verification.

Tun Oo expressed optimism that the Task Force would be instrumental to complete the verification process.

The statement said Hayat reminded the Myanmar side of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s humanitarian gesture in extending makeshift refuge to the huge number of displaced persons from Rakhine despite numerous constraints and challenges of Bangladesh.

“He (Hayat) expressed dismay over the slow pace of verification of past residency by Myanmar and offered all cooperation under the three bilateral instruments, to expeditiously complete the verification process,” the statement read.

Hayat said that solving difficulties and gaps in pending verification will pave the way for the early commencement of the sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas.

The statement said the Bangladesh official simultaneously pointed out that the issue also demanded “creation of conducive environment in Rakhine and confidence building among them (Rohingyas)”.

The February 1, 2021coup in Myanmar visibly forced postponement of a scheduled tripartite working group meeting among Bangladesh, China and Myanmar scheduled for February 4 last year.

The date was fixed as Naypyidaw showed a positive gesture in returning the Rohingyas during a secretary level tripartite virtual talk held on January 19 in 2021 just days before the military takeover.

Since August 25 in 2017, Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas and most of them arrived there after a military crackdown at their homeland which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and dubbed by most rights groups “genocide”.

Bangladesh so far provided the neighbour biometric data of 8,30,000 Rohingyas while the Myanmar authority until now verified only 42,000 of them.

But the neighbouring country is yet to return a single Rohingya in the last nearly four and half years while repatriation attempts failed twice due to trust deficit among the Rohingyas about their safety and security in Rakhine state.