Myanmar agrees to repatriate Rohingyas

A working group will be formed to start the process in the next two months and after that they will be repatriated

Myanmar, in a breakthrough agreement, has agreed to start the repatriation process of verified Rohingyas stranded in two camps in Cox’s Bazaar within two months.

“We agreed to start work towards repatriation of verified Myanmar nationals within two months,” Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque said at a press conference yesterday.

He was talking about the outcome of the 8th foreign secretary level talks which he led from Bangladesh side while Deputy Foreign Minister U Thant Kyaw led the Myanmar side.

“I think it is a breakthrough as no repatriation has taken place after 2005,” he said.

A working group will be formed to start the process in the next two months and after that they will be repatriated, he said.

In 2004-05, a total number of 2415 were verified, and now they have children and the working group will adjust them for repatriation, he explained.

“We have long been demanding for their repatriation and this time the Myanmar delegation has come here with proper preparation,” the foreign secretary said.

Since 1991 over 0.25 million Rohingyas illegally entered Bangladesh and over 0.23 million of them were repatriated to Myanmar till 2005, when the process halted.

The foreign secretary said Bangladesh had flagged the issue of undocumented Myanmar nationals living outside the two camps.

“The Myanmar side said let’s start the repatriation process and then gradually we will look into the issue, which I think is very good step.”

About 0.3 million to 0.5 million undocumented Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh illegally.

“We informed them that we are conducting a census on Rohingyas in Bangladesh and we will hand over the report to them,” he said.

Qualitative change

The foreign secretary said there is a qualitative change between seventh and eighth foreign secretary level talks.

“The Myanmar government wants to alleviate the relationship to a higher level,” said the secretary who had a tete-e-tete with Myanmar deputy foreign minister before the official talks which continued for about four hours.

“I had tete-e-tete with Myanmar deputy foreign minister and discussed candidly on the hiccups that emerge time-to-time between our relationships. He was also very open on how to resolve the problems,” Shahidul said.

The secretary said the Border Guard of Bangladesh and Border Security Police of Myanmar are in regular contacts and now both the countries are thinking of having home secretary level talks in addition to the foreign office consultation.

About holding the first Joint Commission meeting of the two foreign ministers, Shaidul said Myanmar president is likely to visit Bangladesh early next year to have the meeting.

Both the countries agreed to have joint commission meeting in 2011 but no meeting has yet been taken place.

Gas import

Dhaka has requested Nay Pye Taw to export gas to Bangladesh.

“Myanmar in principal agreed to share gas if they find any new reserve,” the secretary said.

The Myanmar side in the meeting said that nobody in their team had enough knowledge on the issue but they would welcome if a team from Bangladesh visits Myanmar.

However, they also said their energy demand is also growing and now they are in a deficit, he said.

A consortium of China, India, Myanmar and Daewoo of South Korea has developed Shwe gas field in Rakhine state and about 800-km long pipeline was installed to supply gas from Rakhine state to Kunming in China in 2013.

Connectivity

Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to revive the negotiation to have road connectivity between the two countries.

The secretary said it was great achievement as the negotiation was suspended till 2008.

A Bangladeshi team will soon visit Myanmar about the proposed road connectivity and find out if there is any other alternative route, he said.

About BCIM initiative, he said the next working group meeting of the initiative will be held at the end of October and Myanmar agreed to join the meeting.

“They are also planning to hold a BCIM Forum meeting in February next year in Myanmar.”

Framework Arrangement

Bangladesh has floated an idea to have broader collaboration framework between the two countries.

“We shared a document on Framework Arrangement on Trust and Cooperation for Development with the Myanmar side,” Shahidul said.

The arrangement has eight components and it is the same cooperation model that Bangladesh has with India and the US, he said.

The eight components are strengthening trust; security and cooperation dialogue; trade and connectivity; energy, environment and natural disaster; agriculture and rural development; education, health and culture; sub-regional cooperation; and collaboration in the Bay of Bengal.

Myanmar said they would analyse the proposal by Bangladesh and it would be reviewed in the joint commission meeting next year, he said.

Hasina-Sein meeting

Bangladesh has shown interest in having a bilateral meeting with Myanmar President Thein Sein at the sideline of the UN general Assembly.

“Our foreign minister has already expressed that if Myanmar president goes to UNGA, our prime minister is interested in having a bilateral meeting with him,” Shaidul said.

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