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Rohingya student group demands consultation in repatriation talks between China, Bangladesh, Myanmar Open in fullscreen

Gaia Caramazza

Rohingya student group demands consultation in repatriation talks between China, Bangladesh, Myanmar

The student group is based in Cox Bazar [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2021

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“We don’t have lots of demands for repatriation. We just want our safety and security to be guaranteed, and the government of Myanmar should restore our citizenship and equal rights.”
A group of mostly young Rohingyas living in the world’s largest refugee camp - Cox’s Bazar - has demanded participation in a conversation on repatriation of the minority group back to Myanmar where they were forced to flee from.

“For me, being repatriated is like passing the exam of my life. Everyone in this world has their own goal, and that is repatriation for the Rohingya people,” Ro Sawyeddollah, the founder of Rohingya Students Network (RSN), told The New Arab.

“We don’t have lots of demands with regards to the repatriation. We just want our safety and security to be guaranteed, and the government of Myanmar should restore our citizenship rights and equal rights. That’s all.”

The issue of the repatriation of the Rohingya will be tabled at the latest in a series of meetings between Bangladesh, Myanmar, and China, which has now been scheduled for January 19.

More than 1.1 million Rohingya have sought refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh after facing dangerous and life-threatening discrimination under Myanmar's Suu Kyi government.

Read also: Hundreds of Rohingya refugees' homes destroyed, after devastating fire rips through camp

RSN released its statement on Saturday to request a seat at the table, where the outcome will dictate their peoples future.

Sawyeddollah says RSN believes the involvement of China is unlikely to help the Rohingya’s plight to return home safely, citing the discrimination the Muslim-minority Uyghur people by Chinese authorities in Xinjiang.

“China is one of the countries who vote against the Rohingya human rights resolutions at the United Nations, so we don’t expect anything good for the Rohingya people when it comes to China. China has lots of companies in Myanmar so that is what is driving negotiations, and it is helping the genocidal government,” he said.

“We already had two meetings with the government of Myanmar when the delegations came to Cox’s Bazaar. They did not give us proper answers, and now they are coming with China to convince Bangladesh and the Rohingya people to accept repatriation without giving us our rights.”

Sawyeddollah says RSN would like to attend the tripartite meeting to “ask them not to engage with Rohingya issues before addressing the human rights issues within their own country.”

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said: “We are ready to send the displaced people of Myanmar back to their country. We believe, as Myanmar agreed to take them back, ensuring their safety and security, that the new government will honour its commitment.” 

"Our friends like China, Japan, the European Union and the United Kingdom assured us that they would help us so that Myanmar takes the initiative in this regard," he told Turkish news agency Anadolu.

According to Ro Nay San Lwin, the co-founder of the UK-based Free Rohingya Coalition, China has become involved in the matter to help Myanmar “avoid sanctions proposed by international organisations, including the UN, on the Rohingya issue,” Anadolu reported.

“China and Myanmar have been very close allies for a long time. They got closer when Western countries sanctioned Myanmar.”

RSN has representatives from all the 34 government-run camps of Cox’s Bazaar, which have been decried as having unsuitable facilities by international aid organisations, especially after the outbreak of Covid-19 in the overcrowded camps.

Due to this, since 2018 Bangladesh has attempted to begin repatriations of Rohingyas back to Myanmar, but there has been resistance against this due to continued persecution and violence against this minority.

Most refugees at the camps fled after a violent crackdown by the Myanmar military forces that was later said to have a “genocidal intent” by the UN.

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