Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed that 1,500 Rohingya each week will be sent back to Myanmar after fleeing from Myanmar’s Rakhine state. This all stems from a long conflict between the majority Buddhist population and the minority Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar. In October 2016, the already tense relationship between the two groups was worsened when the insurgent group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked border police stations. This led to 12 police officers being killed and the Myanmar military attacking innocent Rohingya and burning down their villages.
This is bad.
Funny thing is… the repatriation seems to be an independent decision made between the two countries, without the Rohingya opinion being taken into consideration. What many Rohingya are worried about is that their safety and rights cannot be guaranteed even if they are to move back to Myanmar. The Rohingya were forced to flee because of the truly atrocious acts committed against them, such systematic mass rape, and their repatriation does not tackle the societal discrimination that allowed for these acts to happen in the first place.
In addition, it seems that the Rohingya might just be moving from one camp to another, except now they live under worse conditions with threats to their safety. Not to mention, Myanmar doesn’t exactly have a good track record when it comes to what they call “transition camps”. In 2012, 120,000 Rohingya returned after leaving due to similar violence and have been held in these “transition camps”, which Unicef’s spokesperson saying that “Parts of the camps are literally cesspools”.
If you think this already sounds terrible, it gets worse. Due to a 1982 citizenship act, Rohingya are not considered Myanmar citizens and have since then been stateless, without rights or representation. This new repatriation agreement does not even talk about the possibility of citizenship. So while it seems good that the Rohingya are returning home, there is a lot of uncertainty and worry over how beneficial repatriation can be for them.