Myanmar authorities again seem to have launched a false campaign by claiming to have taken back a five-member Rohingya family as part of repatriation process. The Myanmar government, in a statement on Saturday, as international news agency Reuters reported from Yangon, said that five members of a Muslim family had reached the Taungpyoletwea reception centre in Rakhine State, immigration authorities had scrutinised them and they had been given national verification cards on entering Myanmar. The authorities also made public a photograph showing a man, two women, a young girl and a young boy receiving the cards and getting health checkups. But, in effect, not a single Rohingya was sent back to Myanmar under bilateral arrangements with the supervision of the UNHCR, as the Office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner in Cox’s Bazar said. Bangladesh authorities brushed aside the reported incident of transfer of the Rohingya family by Myanmar authorities saying that it was not part of the repatriation process agreed on with Myanmar and the UNHCR. The family that Myanmar took back to a transit camp in Rakhine State had been stranded in no man’s land and they did not enter Bangladesh.
Myanmar, which is observed not to have let go of any chance to mislead the international community and to delay any probable scheme of taking back the Rohingyas with false claims, in December 2017 also claimed that it had signed the agreement with Bangladesh only on the repatriation of the Rohingyas who fled violence in their homeland Rakhine to Bangladesh in four months, from August 25 to December 15. Myanmar, in effect, till then signed two agreements, on November 23 and December 19, with the immediate one covering the Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh after October 2016 and the other covering the Rohingyas who entered Bangladesh before October 2016 on the conclusion of the return of the people covered by the first agreement. Such claims and moves that the Myanmar authorities have taken or are taking can well be construed as ploys to inconvenience the repatriation process, mostly on the Bangladesh side by way of a psychological war, a means to deflect the world attention having Rohingya crisis in focus and a tool to defuse pressure that the international community has for some time been mounting on Myanmar to resolve the crisis.
Myanmar’s claim of taking back a Rohingya family, which did not enter Bangladesh and had been stranded in no man’s land, is, therefore, ludicrous. About 6,000 Rohingyas are reported to have been living on no man’s land between the two countries. More than 5,70,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh since August 25, 2017 when Myanmar’s security forces launched genocide of a kind on the Rohingyas in Rakhine. With the Rohingyas having already lived in Bangladesh since the late 1980s, the new influx has taken the number to more than 11,00,000. Myanmar signed a third agreement with Bangladesh in January to work out the physical arrangement for partial repatriation of the Rohingyas but none has so far been transferred under the scheme. But Bangladesh wants a full repatriation of the Rohingyas adhering to international standards ensuring voluntary, safe and dignified return of the Rohingyas. While Reuters has displayed lack of professionalism by not checking the fact with the Bangladesh authorities, which it should have done, Bangladesh should also start working with international news agencies so that the repatriation process cannot be harmed by false news.
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