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12 January, 2018 12:23:18 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 13 January, 2018 08:41:53 AM

1st meet Jan 15 amid continued influx

Team leaves for Naypyidaw tomorrow; Dhaka to press for UN involvement in repatriation
1st meet Jan 15 amid continued influx

Bangladesh is set to sit with Myanmar on Monday (January 15) in Naypyidaw to talk about the physical arrangement of the repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas, who had to cross into Cox’s Bazar to escape from the brutalities of the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people from different ethnic groups in Rakhine. The first meeting of the joint working group (JWG) comprising 15 members from each country is taking place amidst continued new Rohingya arrivals, which are creating doubt among the officials concerned about the success of the meeting, according to sources familiar with the process.

A 14-member Bangladeshi team, led by foreign secretary Shahidul Haque, will leave the capital for Myanmar by a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight tomorrow afternoon, they said, adding that if the meeting does not conclude on Monday, they will convene on the morning of Tuesday before flying back home in the afternoon.

One member, who belongs to the Bureau of Statistics, will not be available due to ‘unavoidable circumstances’, said the sources. The Myanmar side will be headed by permanent secretary of its foreign ministry Myint Thu. The JWG was formed on December 19 in Dhaka in accordance with a deal signed between Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Myanmar Minister attached with state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s office Kyaw Tint Swe on November 23, 2017.

The JWG will deal with over 6.55 lakh Rohingyas, who have arrived since August 25, and more than 80,000 who had crossed border after October, 2016.

According to the terms of reference (TOR) agreed by the two sides, the JWG will undertake all necessary measures to start the safe and voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration process of displaced Myanmar residents as envisaged in the “Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State” signed in Naypyidaw.

It will develop physical arrangement for return, which would include mechanism of verification, time schedule, transport and logistics arrangements, reception procedures, communication etc. to commence the repatriation process within the stipulated time frame mentioned in the “Arrangement”, state the terms of reference. The JWG will assess the process and report to the respective governments quarterly.

It will take assistance of the UNHCR and other mandated UN agencies and interested international partners in various stages of repatriation. “Yes, we are going to Myanmar on Saturday for the first meeting aimed at talking about the physical arrangements for the repatriation,” confirmed a top official while talking to The Independent yesterday.

“Our all-out efforts will be to start the repatriation by January 23 specified in the agreement signed between the two countries on November 23,” he said.

The Bangladeshi officials acknowledged that they are aware of the doubt among the people about the success of the meeting as it is taking place amidst continued arrival of Rohingyas, though in much lesser number as compared with the August 25 numbers.

But, they said that the new arrival is in complete violation of the agreement in which Myanmar pledged to make efforts to stop their people crossing border.

While Myanmar opposes, Bangladesh will press for the involvement of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in the repatriation process, said the officials.    

Despite all these, they said that there will have to be persistent efforts to make things happen.

“Look, we are going to go there in a couple of days. But, as we speak, there is no halt in the arrival of Rohingyas. That naturally creates a doubt among us as well as people,” said a member of the Bangladesh side of the JWG.

“It’s no secret that we always have trust deficit with Myanmar.  But, what can you do? We have to move on. We hope this time round things will be better,” he said.

“Myanmar doesn’t want the involvement of any UN agencies. But, we think it will be good if UNHCR is involved in the repatriation process. So, we will press for that,” he added.

About the continued arrival of the Rohingyas, another member said, “We did raise the issue with them. They said that they are trying to stop without any success. We will remind them again on Monday.





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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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