By The Rohingya Post

“We will not wait until November 15 to return to the land of our birthplace if Myanmar accepts our demands”

COX’S BAZAR: A 11-member Myanmar delegation led by Permanent Secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myint Thu, visited Kutupalong Refugee Camp where they met with Rohingya refugees on October 31.

The delegation was accompanied by the Bangladesh official to discuss on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees which Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to start in the middle of November.

During the 2-hour meeting at a community centre in the camp, Rohingya refugees exchanged their demands and the Myanmar delegation attempted to persuade with “false assurance” of repatriation to northern Rakhine State.

One of the members of over eighty Rohingya refugees who attended the meeting stated, “It was a desperate attempt of Myanmar to take us back to Arakan (Rakhine State) as there is so much pressure on the government for its involvement in the forceful expulsion of Rohingya population, for which International Criminal Court has jurisdiction to prosecute the country.

“The delegation tried to trick us with false assurance on how Myanmar has planned to take back Rohingya refugees and why NVCs (National Verification Cards) are essential for living following the repatriation.”

Woman’s question unanswered

Shakufa who is among the 720,000 Rohingya refugees taking shelter in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar Genocide unfolded in August 2017, said “After suffering tremendously under the hands of Myanmar Military, we take shelter in Bangladesh. Now if we are going to be repatriated to Myanmar, we must be given the right to self-identity as Rohingya.”

When asked Myint Thu whether Myanmar is ready to call Rohingya as “Rohingya”, the entire delegation failed to respond Ms. Shakufa’s question.

Several refugees expressed their views and the experience faced during the genocide.

‘The NVC is tool of genocide’, cards discarded in the camp

However most of the talks were based on the citizenship and NVCs.

“When we asked about our citizenship, there was no answer. They told us to accept NVCs. We are not accepting NVCs. We are not Bengali,” Abdur Rahim said after the meeting with the delegation.

NVCs are the first step before the scrutinisation of citizenship in accordance to the 1982 Citizenship Law, Myanmar says. The majority of Rohingya feel that it is another step to erase the self-identity and to brand the community as foreigners, and the verification process has neither specific time period towards the citizenship nor guarantee the full and equal citizenship rights.

The delegation handed over some pamphlets detailing facts about the NVCs to Rohingya refugees who rejected the information sheet, and discarded them in the muddy camp.

The trilingual pamphlet states, “Don’t trust upon others. Don’t trust upon people from away… To have guarantee for life… If you want to go to long trip, keep NV card with you… Traveling with NV card is safe if you have NV card…If you want to do fishing, apply NV card first…”

Many Rohingya who were either forced or tricked to hold NVCs in Myanmar, feel they are betrayed and lied with the false assurance of basic human rights. The NVCs holders are constantly and equally denied the freedom of movement, education, healthcare, livelihood, and among other.

A Rohingya refugee said, “The NVC is a tool of genocide.”

‘Political commitment to treat us as equal citizens and human rights’

A Rohingya group, Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, submitted the delegation a letter for Aung San Suu Kyi. The letter sets out the demands of Rohingya refugees.

It calls for the restoration of citizenship, the acceptance of Rohingya as an ethnic group, the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh and all Rohingya from Internally Displaced Persons IDP camps to their “original houses and lands” in Rakhine State, the compensation and reparation for “the lives lost and injuries inflected as well as for all property and land that has been lost or confiscated since 1992”, the unconditional release of arbitrarily detained Rohingya and the lifting of “restrictions on our movement and access to services”.

Due to the repeated persecutions and denial of human rights, “we demand to see evidence of your political commitment to treat us as equal citizens and human beings,” it questions the de facto leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi.

Refugees raised demands in demonstration

At the same time of visit, a number of Rohingya refugees staged a demonstration at Camp 5 of Kutupalong Refugee Camp, where children, women and men who fled the genocide strongly expressed their demands to the visiting delegation and the international community.

Organised by Voice of Rohingya, the refugees also call for the restoration of full citizenship rights and ethnic status, the guarantee of safety and security and the accountability of the genocide before the repatriation process begins.

Suspicious and premature Repatriation

Myanmar announced that it has reached an agreement with Bangladesh to start out repatriation of the first batch of 2,000 Rohingya from “verified 5,000 Rohingya” in the coming weeks.

Rohingya refugees and activists as well as many human rights groups have called Bangladesh to cancel the repatriation as it is viewed suspicious and premature.

UNHCR which has signed an MoU with Myanmar for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, said it was “not involved in preparation, transmission or receipt of this list nor in the verification and clearing that was reportedly carried out by the Government of Myanmar.”

Andrej Mahecic, UNHCR spokesman warned, “Because we consider that conditions in Rakhine State are not yet conducive for voluntary return in the conditions of safety, dignity and sustainability, UNHCR will not, at this stage, facilitate any refugee returns to Rakhine State.”

‘An ongoing genocide’

Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar released a 444-page long report on the situations of human rights in Myanmar, which found Myanmar Security Forces have committed genocide and crimes against humanity on Rohingya.

On October 24, Marzuki Darusman, the head of the mission told the U.N. Security Council that “the international community must be gravely concerned. It is an ongoing genocide (against Rohingya).”

“We will not wait until November 15 to return to the land of our birthplace if Myanmar accepts our demands,” said a Rohingya community leader in the camp.