Vijaya Laxmi Tripura
After playing dilly-dally with Bangladesh for years, military top brasses in Myanmar have finally decided of not taking back the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. A highly-placed source confirmed this correspondent that the matter was recently finalized during a closed-door meeting between several key figures of the Myanmar army and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. During the meeting, General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar first tabled the idea of refusing to take the Rohingya refugees returned from Bangladesh citing security concerns.
General Hlaing argued, Rohingya refugees are increasingly becoming radicalized and once they return to Myanmar, they may join hands with jihadist and militancy outfits such as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) thus posing a serious threat to Myanmar’s national security.
Top military intelligence official told an anti-Muslim Aung San Suu Kyi that, none of the countries in the world are currently showing much interest on the issue of repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, while India and China are already favorable to Myanmar.
When State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi wanted to the possible consequences including sanctions from the United Nations or any proceedings at the International Criminal Court (ICC), she was told that any attempt of imposing sanctions on Myanmar by the United Nations would be effectively countered by its friendly nations while Bangladesh may not get any result from the International Criminal Court because of the “arrangement” it already has signed with Myanmar in 2018 centering repatriation of the Rohingyas. Immediately after signing of the “arrangement” paper, Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh had protested their return to Myanmar. This particular matter had been a great blessing to Myanmar as in future Myanmar can tell the international community that despite their honest willingness, those Rohingya refugees are not willing to return to Myanmar.
In November 2018, when Bangladesh had begun preparations to repatriate an initial batch of 2,200 Rohingya to Myanmar, it has been opposed by Rohingya at camps in Bangladesh and the United Nations refugee agency and aid groups, who fear for the safety of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Hundreds of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh protested against any attempt to send them back.
Myanmar blamed Bangladesh for failing to bring any returnees but said it remained ready to accept them.
“To be honest, Bangladesh is weak in following the physical arrangement,” said Myint Thu, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry, at a media briefing.
“We will accept them according to the agreement signed by the two countries. Whether they come back or not is their own decision,” said Myint Thu.
Unverified images on social media showed officials on the Myanmar side of the border waiting idle at a reception center.
Myanmar won the diplomatic game
Clearly, by letting Bangladesh sign the “arrangement” paper on the issue of return of Roginyas to Myanmar, Bangladesh side had committed a blunder and the entire responsibility lies with the then foreign minister and his team. This instrument had not only given breathing space to Myanmar but now they already are signaling of not accepting the Rohingyas anymore. They may even tell the international community that Rohingyas are unwilling to return to Myanmar as they originally are “Bengalis” from Bangladesh.
The ugly side of Aung San Suu Kyi
Until her election in 2015, most around the world knew her as “the Lady”, a saintly figure uniquely adored by the west and Burma’s numerous ethnic groups; the articulate, elegant champion of peace and democracy who sacrificed her life and family for her country; the woman who stood on a rickety table outside her Yangon family home-turned-prison to make speeches on equality while under house arrest.
But there was also another Aung San Suu Kyi, one whose leadership style, behind closed doors, always bordered on authoritarian, who from the beginning refused to delegate even the smallest task and was obsessive about controlling every meeting and every message, who was driven not purely by ideology, but a dynastic determination to continue the legacy of her father, Gen Aung San, known as the father of modern-day Myanmar.
No one tried to resist the idealized version of Aung San Suu Kyi more than Aung San Suu Kyi herself, aware of the fragility of the pedestal the west in particular had placed her upon. “I am just a politician,” she said in a 2015 interview. “I am not quite like Margaret Thatcher, no. But on the other hand, I am no Mother Teresa either. I have never said that I was.”
Nevertheless, her transformation from celebrated human rights campaigner to someone widely condemned for excusing – at best – genocide and ethnic cleansing, has shocked her former supporters. “I don’t think she is xenophobic but perhaps because of the overwhelming current of opinion within Burma, which is very hostile to Islam, she has just gone along with it,” said Peter Popham, who has written two biographies of Aung San Suu Kyi. “And the fact that during the 2015 election the NLD [National League For Democracy] rejected all sorts of very capable Muslim candidates was already a very worrying sign of weakness from her on this issue”.
Born in Myanmar, then Burma under British rule, in 1945, she was the daughter of the country’s most celebrated general, who secured its independence from the British empire in 1947 but was then assassinated the same year.