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POST TIME: 26 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
2 years of military crackdown on rohingyas
Demand for citizenship, security grows louder
Diplomatic Correspondent with Our correspondent

Demand for citizenship, security grows louder

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas attend a rally organised at Kutupalong camp in Ukhia upazila of Cox’s Bazar yesterday to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Star mail photo

The Rohingyas yesterday (Sunday) intensified their demands for citizenship and security at a huge gathering at several camps in Cox’s Bazar, held to mark the day of their displacement from Rakhine state following the persecution by the Myanmarese army. But Myanmar’s government has not done any work in these areas for guaranteeing their citizenship and ensuring their security in the last two years of Rohingya displacement. Meanwhile, the foreign ministry yesterday (Sunday) urged Myanmar to fully concentrate on implementing its obligations and commitments necessary for a durable solution to the Rohingya problem.

Experts said Myanmar’s government has to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law or enact a new law for guaranteeing their citizenship, which they have been deprived of for long.

The repatriation process would be visible when Myanmar’s government does work in these areas, the experts said, adding that the international community has to exert pres

sure on Myanmar in this respect. Meanwhile, the Rohingya people marked August 25 as ‘Genocide Day’ to remember how they were persecuted at the hands of Myanmar’s army.

The main Rohingya influx began on this day in 2017, when these people entered Bangladesh crossing the river and tortuous mountainous paths to save their lives.

Though two years have passed since their entry into Bangladesh for shelter, no significant progress has been made on behalf of the Myanmarese government for their repatriation despite the latter’s repeated assurances that they would be taken back.

Two attempts were made for their repatriation but these did not see the light of day. The Rohingyas said they would not go till their demands are met. They will leave Bangladesh when they will find the place safe but Myanmar is not doing anything in that respect.

“The government of Myanmar should seriously consider a comprehensive engagement of the international community in creating an environment conducive to their return as well as monitoring the repatriation and reintegration process in Myanmar,” said the foreign ministry in a press statement yesterday (Sunday).

Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of International Relations at Dhaka University (DU), told The Independent yesterday (Sunday): “What is the assurance for the Rohingya people on the basis of which they would go? It’s clear that genocide has been committed against the Rohingya people.”

“It’s clear that Myanmar staged a show. Yet, they don’t have any option but to take back their people. They could not gain anything by dilly-dallying,” he added.

“The repatriation is the only solution to the crisis. But it would be visible when Myanmar would start working on a new law for guaranteeing their citizenships or amending the existing Citizenship Law,” Imtiaz Ahmed, also the director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at DU, said.

“Myanmar has to keep in mind that Rohingyas are their people. The Myanmar government wants to provide citizenship under the foreign category. But Rohingyas will not accept it,” he added.

The 1982 Citizenship Law of Myanmar provides three categories of citizenship—‘full citizen’, ‘associate citizen’ and ‘naturalised citizen’.

Under this law, full citizenship is primarily based on membership of the ‘national races’, who are considered by the State to have settled in Myanmar prior to 1824, the date of first occupation by the British. But the Rohingyas are not considered to be among these official indigenous races and so are effectively excluded from full citizenship.

Naturalised citizenship in Myanmar may be applied for by individuals and their children who can provide ‘conclusive evidence’ that they entered and resided in Myanmar prior to 4 January 1948, the date of the state’s succession from the British. But it excludes most of the Rohingyas from naturalised citizenship. Associate citizenship is applicable to all those who did not obtain citizenship but applied for it under the 1948 Union Citizenship Act as per Chapter III of the 1982 Citizenship Law.

About their security, Imtiaz Ahmed said, “We have learnt that the repatriated Rohingyas, if any, would be put in camps guarded by the same army that tortured them. They need free mobility with full security. Myanmar has to ensure these areas for their security.”

He further said the international pressure has to be intensified on Myanmar for start the repatriation process.

Meanwhile, to mark ‘Genocide Day’, the Rohingyas yesterday  held a gathering at Kutupalong refugee camp since morning with their renewed five-point charter of demands including citizenship, restoration of their homes, lands and assets, trial of those who carried out the atrocities on the Rohingyas and rehabilitation of those living in the camps of internally displaced people (IDP) in Myanmar.

They offered special prayers on the occasion of ‘Genocide Day’, which is being observed for the second time. They held banners like ‘Talk to us about citizenship and Rohingya ethnicity’ and ‘Talk to us about security’.

During the gathering, Rohingya leaders called upon the international community to take proper steps to ensure justice over the genocide carried out against the Rohingyas. They also expressed gratitude to Bangladesh for giving them shelter here during their special prayers. But they said they would not return until their demands are met.

Sixty-year-old Mohammad Abdul Mazid came to join the gathering at Madhurchhara camp, covering a 5-km distance over the hills from Jamtoli camp. He had with him two sons and four grandsons.

He said, “The Myanmar government is repeatedly ignoring us. We are eagerly waiting to return. Myanmar never wants us to go back.”

During the rally, Rohingya leaders said they have been deprived of their rights for ages. Many of the other Rohingyas are still detained in Myanmar by its army, they said.

Demanding their release, they said, “If the detained Rohingyas are released and if their assets and properties are returned with the fulfilment of certain rights, we will go back.”

Only two attempts have been made in the past two years and both of them failed on account of the strong demands by the Rohingya people for ensuring their security and citizenship.

Bangladesh repeatedly said they have received a lot of support from the international community, especially from China, for starting the repatriation, but the second attempt at repatriation on August 22 also failed.

Experts said Bangladesh should make full use of the United Nations General Assembly in September to intensify the pressure on Myanmar for taking practical measures to ensure the security of the Rohingyas in Rakhine.

Bangladesh is now hosting 1.1 million Rohingyas, who fled the Rakhine state to save themselves from the brutal military crackdown since August 25, 2017.

Over the last two years, many changes have occurred in Rohingya camps.

The local community in the entire Cox’s Bazar is in trouble. Even the environment and ecology have been impacted.

Sources said subversive activities are increasing inside the camps along with the sales of illegal drugs, which have sometimes led to fighting with officials of the law enforcement agencies and killings.

In the past two years, the law and order situation has deteriorated at Ukhia and Teknaf, sources said, adding that if the process of repatriation stretches on, it might lead the Rohingya people to become involved in terror activities.

The general secretary of the People’s Forum of Cox’s Bazar, Kalim Ullah, said, “The Rohingya has become a trouble for us. Some local NGOs and international donor agencies are instigating them to commit these misdeeds.”

Over the last eight months, at least 45 Rohingyas have been killed as a result of internal feuds and gunfights with law enforcement personnel. Of these, 32 were killed during gunfights with the police and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

The additional superintendent of police of Cox’s Bazar told The Independent: “We have beefed up security around the camps so that Rohingyas cannot cause any deterioration in the the law and order situation. Different forces like the army, BGB, RAB and police are working regularly.”

Brushing aside the local allegations of drug dealing, he said, “We have zero tolerance against drugs.”

Refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner Abul Kalam said, “We gave shelter to Rohingya people on humanitarian grounds. They are holding meetings inside the camps for their rights. Our government is working for their repatriation.” The repatriation on August 22 did not take place but efforts are going on for it, he added.

Considering the gravity of the persecution, UN Human Rights Council in Geneva at that time termed the brutality as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Meanwhile, both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court are working on the genocide committed against the Rohingya people.