First repatriation of Rohingyas in Myanmar questioned

Myanmar’s first repatriation of a minority Rohingya family has been denounced as faked by rights activists and neighboring Bangladesh.

Family members pose with identification cards -- the first Muslim minority Rohingya to be repatriated to Myanmar from Bangladesh, the government said. Photo courtesy Myanmar Ministry of Information
Family members pose with identification cards — the first Muslim minority Rohingya to be repatriated to Myanmar from Bangladesh, the government said. Photo courtesy Myanmar Ministry of Information

Over 700,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, have migrated over the last year to Bangladesh amid violence in their home country.

Although the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights said last week conditions are “not yet conducive for returns to be safe dignified and sustainable,” the Myanmar government said Saturday a family of five Rohingya were repatriated.

The family was identified on government-issued identification cards, which are not evidence of citizenship, as Muslim. Myanmar has no designation for Rohingya.

The Bangladesh government, though, called the action “a farce” — saying the family left a city-sized Rohingya encampment on the border and traveled only to a tightly-controlled area nearby, only technically considered Myanmar.

“This is a deception,” Rohingya Blogger, a watchdog website run by Rohingya activists, said in a statement.

Quoting an unidentified source, it added, “We were shocked to hear anybody would return here amidst volatile conditions here.”

The website also said the family in question were actually relatives of an administrator at a designated entry point for returning refugees. The site called the repatriation a “staged event.”

Bangladesh issued a list of 8,000 Rohingya ready for repatriation in Myanmar. Only 600 have been verified by Myanmar, the activist group Human Rights Watch said.

Bill Frelick, HRW refugee rights program director, referred to Myanmar’s plan as “wishful thinking.

“Before the start of actual returns, Myanmar should agree to a set of prerequisites for return,” he said.

By Ed Adamczyk