The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has decided to send a regional taskforce to Myanmar to assist the Rohingya repatriation from Bangladesh.
The decision came on Thursday when Bangladesh had to postpone a repatriation process amid refusal of the refugees to go back, fearing a lack of safety in Rakhine state of Myanmar, which is accused of “genocide intent” against the Rohingyas.
The agreement of the 10-member bloc came at the Asean summit held from November 11 to 15 in Singapore at the request of Myanmar from where some 750,000 Rohingyas fled brutal military atrocities since August last year.
“At the request of Myanmar, it was agreed the Asean bloc would send its Co-ordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management to assist with identifying the way forward on repatriation,” reports The National, a newspaper published from Abu Dhabi.
In the closing statement, the 10-member bloc said it expected an Independent Commission of Inquiry established by Myanmar to seek accountability by carrying out an independent and impartial investigation into the alleged human rights violations and related issues.
AFP reports that diplomatic niceties have been in short supply for Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, at the summit, where the one-time rights champion has been publicly chastised over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told her, “Someone who has been detained before should know the sufferings and should not inflict it on the hapless.”
Mahathir spent the entire summit next to Suu Kyi at photo calls, round tables and dinners — thanks to the alphabetical proximity of Malaysia and Myanmar.
Before the nine other leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, at the summit, Mahathir gave a dressing down on the atrocities committed by the country’s military against the Rohingyas.
“I did mention about the situation in Rakhine state. We urge efforts should be made to correct the wrongdoings,” he told Malaysian media on the sidelines of the Asean summit.
A Malaysian official told Star Online of Malaysia that Suu Kyi’s described the efforts to repatriate the Rohingyas from Bangladesh.
“As she spoke, she kept on looking at Dr Mahathir. It was as if she was talking to him.
“Suu Kyi kept on talking on the schedule to repatriate the Rohingya and getting humanitarian agencies to come and help,” said the official.
The diplomatic siege deepened on Wednesday when US Vice President Mike Pence told her the “violence and persecution” against the Rohingyas were “without excuse”.
Despite global condemnations and the International Criminal Court’s ruling that it could prosecute Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingyas and the refugees’ refusal to return, Myanmar on Thursday accused Bangladesh of failing to repatriate the first batch of over 2,000 refugees to Rakhine.
U Myint Thu, permanent secretary of Myanmar foreign ministry, told a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday that the Bangladesh government had failed to abide by the agreement on repatriation, and those who were on the repatriation list were not informed before.
The statement contradicts the UN and other human rights bodies that said the situation was not conducive at all for return to Rakhine where some 124,000 Rohingyas, who were displaced amid violence in 2012, were confined in camps for six years.
The Rohingya, who demonstrated in the camps in Cox’s Bazar on Thursday, said they wanted a guarantee of citizenship, security, basic human rights, freedom of movement and to return to their own homes, not to the camps.
Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told Suu Kyi they would support Myanmar’s efforts to protect domestic stability and approach to resolving the issue.
Meeting Suu Kyi on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Singapore, Li said China attached great importance to its ties with Myanmar and would build on their tradition of friendship, reports Reuters.