Myanmar's 'new' deception exposed

Marksman   | Published: June 05, 2018 22:18:07 | Updated: June 06, 2018 21:43:49

There is an old Bengali proverb,"Durattar chhaler  obhab hoi na" - an evil soul is never short of deceit. Then you have Joseph Conrad (1911) remind you, "Men alone are capable of every wickedness." But the final word had to be  by Jonathan Swift dated as far back as in 1711 : "I don't wonder to see men wicked but I often wonder to see them not ashamed."  

When everything else fails to illuminate  the   savagery of a dark hermitage  the  Myanmar military junta represents, you may as well apply  the above aphorisms  to the  regime. For, after having emptied the Rakhine state of the Rohingyas and forced an influx into Bangladesh  they are now  playing ducks and drakes with their lives.  

Here are some deceptive, or you might as well dub them as self-delusional instances of Myanmar's  new set of trickery. A FT Syndication Service story by John Reed on Sunday pulls up the venetian blinds through its title: "Myanmar builds repatriation camps devoid of Rohingya returnees."

The report-- in the wake of a group of foreign journalists  recently  visiting a 'facility'--  referred  to a gleeful demonstration by a Burmese official  as to  how 'Rohingya returnees  would be photographed and have their paperwork checked and fingerprints and retinas scanned.' The FT scribe on the government sponsored tour had the 'eerie' (parenthesis mine) feeling of  'a stage set -albeit devoid of  its main characters, the Rohingyas.'

Aung San Suu  Kyi's government  is  reportedly now inviting diplomats  and journalists in chaperoned groups to showcase its readiness  to  re-absorb the Rohingyas. But  Rohingya Muslim refugees  fear that since their original homes were burnt down in  last year's military onslaught, they are  condemned to be  living in camps.

A new element to the picture is claimed   by  Myanmar government that  they have reached an agreement with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on a memorandum that will allow repatriation  of  the 'duly verified' displaced persons. But what's sorely missing is a categorical assurance of easing restrictions on Rohingyas' rights, including  their citizenship.

Moreover, some tell-tale signs about  Myanmar authorities  physically transforming the places where hundreds and thousands of Rohingyas had formerly lived can be seen.

I think  the following statement from Richard Weir, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, brings up the stark reality:  "The government is focused on process and appearance, but they are not focused on the substance: changing the underlying  conditions in Rakhine state…."

A local official was quoted as telling reporters in Maungdaw: "If they (the Rohingyas) want to repatriate, according to their wish, yes, we will receive them."

The semblance of apparent positivity   in Myanmar's attitude to repatriation   is being put down by observers to the reference having been drawn to Bangladesh as a state party to Rome Statute and a sufferer seeking its opinion  on a proposed  International Criminal Court (ICC)  investigation into deportation.  

In this overall context, it's worthwhile to note that even as Myanmar procrastinates, by its own admission at rate of its intake of 300 refugees per day the whole process will  have taken eight years. If this not dictating terms to Bangladesh and the rest of the world to hunker down to a long haul or accept an unsettling prospect of destabilisation of the region, then what is?

In this budget and election year, Bangladesh has an additional concern to  focus on, namely  upkeep of the one million Rohingya refugees with adequate and  sustained  donor support.

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