Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday to quickly facilitate the repatriation of over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to their former homes in Rakhine state, also urging the de facto national leader to guarantee safe conditions for their return.
Meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi on her state visit to Tokyo, Abe added that to strengthen confidence in those seeking to return, human rights violations in Rakhine must now be punished according to recommendations outlined by an Independent Commission of Enquiry set up last year by Myanmar.
On Aug. 31, 2018, the Commission began a probe in northern Rakhine in response to international condemnation over a violent crackdown on Rohingya Muslims by security forces the previous year that drove more than 725,000 members of the minority group to Bangladesh.
The brutal 2017 campaign, which included killings, torture, rape, and village burnings, followed deadly attacks on police posts by a Muslim militant group on Aug. 25, 2017 and was defended by the military as a necessary counterinsurgency against terrorists.
Monywa Aung Shin, a member of the information committee of Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy, said that Aung San Suu Kyi has already pledged in the past to punish anyone “regardless of rank or position” found to have committed rights abuses in Rakhine.
“I have no doubt that she can do it,” he said.
Hopes for trade, business
Meanwhile, talks held on Monday between the two national leaders were encouraging, he said. “Japan has consistently provided aid to Myanmar, and they are providing more aid now that the NLD government is in office than they ever did before.”
“I hope that Daw [honorific] Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to Japan will open many doors for trade, business, and the bilateral relationship between Japan and Myanmar,” he said.
Speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service, UK-based Rohingya activist Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK), welcomed Prime Minister Abe’s appeal to the Myanmar leader, but said that success will depend on the Myanmar government’s willingness to move forward.
“As we can see, the government doesn’t have the will to resolve the Rohingya issue. Besides, we need to make sure that the returning Rohingya have their rights as full-fledged citizens and a [recognized] ethnic group of the Union of Myanmar,” he said.
These rights include allowing the Rohingya to return to their villages, rebuild their damaged homes, and recover confiscated farmland, Tun Khin said, adding that the Rohingya must also be allowed freedom of movement, access to health care and education, and the right to get married.
“All of these rights must be restored to them as citizens,” he said.
More than a million Rohingya now live in Bangladesh in squalid camps, mostly in the district of Cox’s Bazar.
Rohingya in the camps have called on Myanmar’s government to grant them full citizenship rights and to ensure their safety in the Buddhist-majority country before they decide to return under a repatriation agreement that Myanmar and Bangladesh signed in November 2017.
Myanmar and Bangladesh have tried twice to repatriate Rohingya refugees who fled during the 2017 crackdown, but their efforts failed after no one showed up at the border for re-entry processing.
Reported by Khin Maung Soe for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.