DHAKA: Bangladesh has yet to decide whether it will replace its official description of Rohingya refugees — a move some claim will limit the Rohingyas’ rights as Myanmar citizens.
A Bangladesh Foreign Ministry spokesman told Arab News a decision over the replacement of the term “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” with “displaced persons from Rakhine state” was still under consideration.
“During last week’s discussion with the Bangladesh delegation, the Myanmar authority brought this up. We have listened to their points in this regard,” Delwar Hossain, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, said.
“Discussion is continuing among the ministry’s policy-makers, but the decision has yet to be taken,” he said.
Another Bangladeshi official present at the meeting at Nay Pe Daw said that Bangladesh has not given any consent to the proposal from Myanmar regarding the replacement of the term.
“I have not received any directive over the issue,” said Abul Kalam, of the Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commission (RRRC), the main coordinating body looking after the Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar.
However, experts believe that the replacement of the term “forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals” with “displaced persons from Rakhine state” will limit the Rohingyas’ ability to secure rights as Myanmar citizens.
“Whatever the language or term is, the Myanmar government is the ultimate authority to determine the citizenship issue of the Rohingyas. We want the (Rohingyas) to live in Rakhine with honor and dignity,” said Humayun Kabir, former Bangladesh ambassador to the US.
“We want to see developments on the ground for the repatriation of the refugees, and that is the prime concern at the moment.”
Independent migration expert Asif Munir said that Myanmar posted the statement on its state counsellor’s Facebook page, which is not an official channel.
He described the Myanmar approach as “very provocative.”
“Although Bangladesh authorities have not yet officially agreed with the Myanmar proposal, they (Myanmar) have issued a statement through an informal channel to see the response of the Bangladeshis. If Bangladesh opposes it strongly, then Myanmar may take the chance to disown the statement by saying that it was not at all official,” Munir said.
“This proposal will hamper the Rohingyas’ identity and citizenship of Myanmar.”