Following a military coup in Myanmar early on Monday, the repatriation of Rohingyas who fled persecution seems uncertain.
Bangladesh is hosting more than a million Rohingya Muslims at cramped makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar, which is considered the world’s largest refugee settlement.
Most have fled violence following a military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state in 2017. But many still reside in the neighboring country, without citizenship and voting rights.
Myanmar had earlier said it was committed to the repatriation as per a bilateral agreement, with Bangladesh expecting it to start the process in the second quarter of this year.
Military in the Southeast Asian country, however, has now seized power after detaining de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. A one-year state of emergency has been declared. The coup follows a landslide election win by the governing National League for Democracy party in November 2020.
Last month, Dhaka started relocating Rohingyas to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal. So far, nearly 7,000 have been transported to Bhasan Char, an island said to be flood-prone.
"The repatriation was already uncertain, now it has been destroyed," Khin Maung, head of the Rohingya Youth Association, told Anadolu Agency. "It will have a huge impact on our peaceful repatriation to the home country."
He urged the international community to raise its voice in support of democracy, and "pressure Myanmar's military to accept the results of the recent elections."
"There are still more than 600,000 Rohingyas living in Rakhine. I have a lot of relatives there. I worry for them now," said Abdur Rahim, a refugees’ camp leader. "All hopes have been destroyed."
"The UN must act against the Myanmar military," said Mayyu Khan, another Rohingya at the Ukhia camp in Cox's Bazaar. “If the situation is not controlled and our peaceful repatriation is not ensured immediately, it will create problems for all of us."
Maung Zarni, a Rohingya rights activist, in a statement on Twitter said they will suffer due to the coup in Myanmar.
"Who is going to defend Myanmar genocide case at the ICJ, if Aung San Suu Kyi is locked up by the genocidal generals whom she defended with a straight face?" he said, referring to Suu Kyi's last year's statement at the International Court of Justice in which she defended the crackdown on the minority community.
Justice For Myanmar strongly condemns today’s military coup.— Justice For Myanmar (@JusticeMyanmar) February 1, 2021
We call for immediate & comprehensive targeted sanctions against the #Myanmar military, their leaders + biz accomplices. The failed approach of the US, #EU + int. community must end today. There must be accountability. pic.twitter.com/ndNZuPAcsz
Myanmar is facing genocide charges at The Hague.
Bangladesh expects repatriation to continue 'in right earnest'
Following the developments in Myanmar, the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry said it expects the repatriation process to continue.
"We have been persistent in developing mutually beneficial relations with Myanmar and have been working with Myanmar for the voluntary, safe and sustained repatriation of the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh," it said in a statement. "We expect these processes to continue in right earnest."
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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