Rohingya Repatriation – Looking Back 2022


In 2022, the Rohingya crisis saw many eventful activities, despite all those the repatriation of the 1.2 million Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh has not yet started. During this period Bangladesh has successfully included the issue of Rohingya crisis in the discussion of international forum and Bangladesh’s role in this crisis has been well appreciated and accepted by the World Community.

Inside Bangladesh, the population has been sensitized by various activities regarding this problem, which deserves to be praised. On March 21, The US officially recognized the violence perpetrated by the country’s military against the Rohingya in Myanmar as genocide and crimes against humanity. Through this, the US formally recognized the Myanmar military’s violence against the Rohingya as genocide and crime against humanity. The fifth joint working group meeting between Bangladesh and Myanmar on the repatriation of the Rohingyas was held on June 14, where the speedy return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar was discussed.

In her message to the 27th International Nikkei Conference, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged Asian countries to come forward for the safe repatriation of the Rohingyas. On June 13, 2022, the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh appointed to the UN requested the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Myanmar Affairs, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, to increase the program in Rakhine with the aim of speedy implementation of the bilateral repatriation process.

UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi has called on regional countries to come forward to repatriate the main solution to the problem, stressing the continuation of humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees. Due to the global instability caused by the crisis in Ukraine and Afghanistan following the Covid-19 pandemic, there are concerns regarding the reduction of funds for the Rohingyas. The commissioner urged the international community not to reduce the humanitarian aid and cooperation. In 2022, only 44 percent of the allocation for humanitarian activities was available against USD 880 million in the JRP, which leaves room for consideration. About 35,000 children are born in the camps every year. This burden of the increased population is increasingly putting pressure on humanitarian aid.

Rohingyas staying in various camps in Bangladesh organize ‘Go Home’ program on 19 June 2022, to attract the attention of the world community. Through this they put forward their demands and express their interest to return to Myanmar. The Rohingyas gathered under the slogan ‘Go Home Campaign-2023’ demanding to return to their country on December 31 in the New Year. At this time, the Rohingyas demanded to return home with posters and placards saying ‘Enough is enough; let’s go home, 2023 should be Rohingya home year’.

Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn, ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, has assured Bangladesh of making all-out efforts for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya issue. During his visit to Bangladesh on August 6, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China is working sincerely to find a solution to the Rohingya crisis.

The hearing of Gambia’s case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on November 11, 2019 ended on February 28 this year. On July 22, the court dismissed Myanmar’s objections to jurisdiction over the case and ordered Myanmar to respond to the complaint by April 24, 2023. The National Unity Government (NUG) conveyed that it would cooperate with the trial. They said they are trying to establish relations with the local population in the Rakhine region to ensure the safe repatriation of the Rohingyas. For a long time in Myanmar, by spreading hatred against the Rohingyas through propaganda among the general public, they have been turned into a marginalized group. NUG is trying to bridge that gap to normalize the situation.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh informed the Canadian High Commissioner of her concern about the Rohingyas as they are creating social problems in Bangladesh and are involved in drug and women trafficking, the High Commissioner said that Canada would always provide assistance to Bangladesh. Canada is creating an additional fund through charity for the Rohingya. To reduce the pressure on the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, the Bangladesh government has undertaken the relocation of Rohingyas to Bhasanchar, an island in the Bay of Bangle, which is a far-sighted and timely step. The UN initially opposed it. Later, the United Nations and Japan joined the project. In August 2022, the US and Canada joined the Bhasanchar project after the United Nations and Japan. So far around 30 thousand 79 Rohingyas have been shifted to Bhasanchar. Japan has announced two million US dollars to help the Rohingyas in Bhasanchar. Japan has appreciated the initiatives taken by the Bangladesh government with international organizations to protect the Rohingyas.

The failure to create an environment conducive to voluntary, safe and sustainable return has exacerbated Rohingya frustration, leading to various security concerns and instability. In the last 5 years, 2 thousand 438 different types of cases have been filed in Rohingya camps in various crimes including weapons, drugs, rape, kidnapping, robbery, assault on police, murder and human trafficking. Rohingya leaders and volunteers were the targets of these killings within the camps. From August 25, 2017 to October 28, 2022, 125 killings took place in 32 Rohingya camps. Human trafficking and illegal trafficking of methamphetamine or yaba from Myanmar to other neighboring countries has increased alarmingly. If stability does not return there, organized crime will spread to other parts of the country and pose a regional and global security threat in the days to come.

On November 14, based on intelligence, a team from Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and the Intelligence organization conducted a joint anti-narcotics operation in the bordering area. During the operation, one member of the security forces on duty was killed and another was injured in firing by Rohingya drug smugglers during their encounter with drug smugglers. As time goes by, various crimes including murder, disappearance, drug smuggling and kidnapping are increasing in Rohingya camps. Every day the locals are affected by the Rohingyas in various ways. On September 19, the United League of Arakan (ULA) announced in a statement that the world must come to an understanding with them in any matter of Arakan. Repatriation of Rohingyas will be discussed with Arakan Army (AA) and then ULA will develop a roadmap for Rohingya repatriation based on mutual consent.

On November 16, 2022, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution entitled ‘The situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar’ for the first time. This was a great leap forward from the International community. The Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding signed between Myanmar, UNHCR and UNDP to create an enabling environment for the repatriation of Rohingyas in Rakhine State has been called for its effective implementation by renewing it. The resolution will play a significant role in strengthening the collective efforts of the United Nations member states for a sustainable solution to the Rohingya problem.

The US has announced to take some Rohingyas for resettlement in US. The US government is pleased to undertake this resettlement program for high-risk Rohingyas. In the first phase, the United States worked with a list of about 60 Rohingyas. On December 8, 24 Rohingyas left for the United States from Bangladesh. Since August 2017, the total amount of aid given by the United States to deal with the Rohingya crisis is 1.9 billion dollars.

Rakhine State has been witnessing heavy fighting between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army (AA) for over four months. In August, clashes broke out between AA and the Myanmar army along the Bangladesh border in North Maungdaw and lasted for about three months. To reduce border tension, the eighth border conference of Border Guard Police (BGP) and Border Guard Bangladesh(BGB) Director General level was held from November 23 to November 27. Meanwhile, in a meeting with BGB and BGP officials, Bangladesh’s concerns regarding the quick repatriation of Rohingyas were informed. Both sides have agreed to effectively cooperate with each other including immediate information sharing to prevent the activities of criminal gangs and terrorist groups on both sides of the border.

Currently, the Myanmar Army is engaged in a multi-pronged war with the People Defence Force (PDF) and ethnic armed groups. The army controls only 17% of the country and 23% of the area is in conflict. 71% of the 330 cities in Myanmar are now under the control of the NUG and the Ethnic Resistance Organization (ERO). On 26 November, an unofficial ceasefire was reached between the AA and the Myanmar army. After several days of negotiations, the military and the AA agreed to a ceasefire in Rakhine State. Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, brokered the truce.

Rohingya community leaders felt the need for a unified, strong, credible and single political platform to resolve the Rohingya issue. In view of this, on November 20, 2022, the Rohingya community around the world created a political platform called the Arakan Rohingya National Alliance (ARNA). This organization will help the Rohingya to establish their right to self-determination, convey their message to the international community, and work in unison with all partners in Myanmar and around the world.

On December 21, 2022, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Myanmar for the first time, calling for an immediate end to violence as well as the release of all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. The proposal emphasizes on solving the Rohingya problem. 12 countries voted in favor of the proposal. Among the 15 member states, China, India and Russia abstained. It emphasized on the speedy and full implementation of the five-point consensus adopted by ASEAN member states in 2021. As the Security Council approved the resolution, the resolution of the Rohingya problem became part of the regular activities of the Security Council. The proposal will strengthen and accelerate Bangladesh’s continued efforts in this regard for a quick and permanent solution to the Rohingya issue.

The resolution adopted by the Security Council praised Bangladesh’s efforts to provide shelter, security and humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas. The government of Bangladesh is handling the Rohingya issue very judiciously as well as ensuring regional security by keeping the camp situation under control which deserves praise. Japan, the US and Canada currently join the UN in the resettlement of Rohingya in Bhasan Char.

This suggests that this decision was a pragmatic, and timely, step. Bangladesh has been highlighting the activities related to the Rohingya problem in regional and global forums and calling for active cooperation in its quick resolution. As a result of late and now this crisis has taken place in the international arena and the initiative of Bangladesh is being recognized.

From 2017 to 2023, the Rohingya problem remains unresolved for this long period, and for that, a long-term plan must be developed to address this crisis effectively. In any situation and eventualities, to keep the relief and financial aid going, measures should be taken on an urgent basis to take emergency measures and build up reserves. ARNA and other organizations working with the Rohingyas must work together to create an enabling environment for repatriation. The ongoing awareness activities undertaken to resolve the crisis should be continued. Steps must be taken to ensure the progress of the initiatives taken in 2022 in the international arena. If all these are implemented quickly, it is expected that the solution to the Rohingya problem will see the light in the coming days.

– Brig Gen (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin, ndc, psc, afwc, Mphil, is a Lead Researcher for the Rohingya, Myanmar and ASEAN Affairs at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in Freshangle International [Link]