The proposed pilot project on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees under the agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar with China's cooperation has recently received support from prominent citizens and experts in Southeast Asia. Speakers at an International Discourse held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, expressed their opinion that a permanent solution to the Rohingya Crisis is necessary for the humanitarian reasons of the Rohingya population, as well as for the greater peace and security of the entire South and Southeast Asia. In this case, the current pilot project is not a real solution, but it initially appears that it will play a positive role as a primary initiative towards the permanent solution. However, they emphasized that the opinions and aspirations of the Rohingya refugees cannot be ignored in any way. It is important to see the active role of the ASEAN member states, especially Muslim majority states like Indonesia and Malaysia as a regional power, to the repatriation process to protect necessary interests and security in collaboration with Asia's superpower China as a mediator. In this regard, Bangladesh needs to take more comprehensive initiatives and activities to get support and cooperation from regional and international circles.
“MWRC- CNI GLOBAL DISCOURSE On REPATRIATION INITIATIVE FOR ROHINGYA REFUGEES FROM BANGLADESH TO MYANMAR: Strategic Dynamics, Global Support, Engagement of ASEAN and Other Organizations” was held on 29th May at G Tower Hotel, KL, Malaysia. The program was arranged by MUSLIM WORLD RESEARCH CENTER (MWRC), Malaysia & Cable News International (CNI), Bangladesh in Collaboration with the OIC Study Group (OICSG), the Department of Islamic History and Civilization, University of Malaya (UM) and Dhaka Forum. Former Foreign Minister of Malaysia and Chairman , OIC STUDY GROUP( OICSG) Tansri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar delivered the keynote speech. A Report written by Brg. General (rtd.) Dr. Shafaat Ahmad, Adjunct Faculty; Bangladesh University of Processionals (BUP) and Senior Research Fellow, MWRC was presented by Mr. Md. Mostafa Hossain, Assistant Professor of Law at BRAC University, Bangladesh. The program was chaired by Professor Dr. Roslan M Noor, Head of the Department of Islamic History and Civilization, University of Malaya and moderated by the President of MWRC and Secretary General of OIC Study Group, Associate Prof. Dr. Isharaf Hossain.
The Distinguished panelists of the program were President of Centre for Inclusive Asia (CNIA) Mr. Koh King Kee, Ex Senior Fellow of Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia Mr. Bunn Nagara, Former Ambassador of Malaysia Dato Yeahia Abdul Jabar, Chairman of CNI Mr. Ashfaq Zaman, CEO of Sejahtera Leadership Initiative Professor Dr. Zulkifly Baharom, Distinguished Fellow of MWRC Professor Dato Baharuddin Ahmad, Professor of Mahsa University Dr. Abdul Bashar, Professor of IIUM Dr. Md. Rafiqul Islam and Vice President of ABIM Mr. Fahmi Shamsuddin.
In the keynote speech Tansri Dr. Syed Hamid Albar stated that Bangladesh holds a strategically important location in South Asia which can be targeted by the global and regional powers. In this context, Bangladesh government must realize their security potentials as well as threat to address such crisis. He praised Bangladesh for so far it has done to accommodate the refugees and the global diplomacy to solve this problem. He cautioned that in solving such problem when you have to deal with state like Myanmar, International Law is necessary but not sufficient due to not having proper enforcement agency or force. The most active and crucial instruments and institutions are National Laws and regional powers as well as organizations. He opined that ASEAN should work together with Bangladesh to set a plan of action where China as an Asian superpower can play mediator’s role. He wondered that despite having all the recorded evidences of genocide and human rights violation, ASEAN countries believe that this is Myanmar’s internal matters which are according to him, actually not. Moreover, Bangladesh government must bring Rohingyas into consultation and make them understand the sustainable solution of this crisis.
Among others, the President of Center of Inclusive Asia Mr. Koh King said, In particular, that having brokered Saudi-Irania rapprochement, China now may be in the mood to be a peacemaker. ASEAN should seek the help of China to resolve the Rohingya issue. He suggested that Myanmar government can learn from the Philippines and set up an autonomous region for the Rohingya.
Former Senior Fellow of ISIS Malaysia Mr. Bunn Negara thinks that the current repatriation initiative is a pilot project. Its outcome can be observed through proper implementation without opposing it or imposing conditions. For this, the participation and monitoring of other international organizations including ASEAN is essential. He also said that the current initiative will create an opportunity for an effective dialogue with Myanmar on the Rohingya issue. Myanmar's junta government may not want to bring up many things publicly. In that case you have to go to a closed door meeting with them. They should be effectively brought into the process.
The panelists have also discussed the historic influx of the refugees to Bangladesh, contemporary global refugee crisis and how the different countries solved the problems. The case of Vietnam was rigorously discussed and how Malaysia was able to send them back to their home countries. In this regard, the panelists raised the exceptionality of Rohingya people as an ethnic identity which is not similar to the other refugee crisis in the world because of their stateless identity.
The repatriation process has many dimensions. The synergy of economic and political diplomacy can create a special economic environment like creating solution fund, giving back their land ownership and autonomous zone for them.
Currently due to global pressure, the Myanmar government has already addressed the fact that the Rohingyas are from Myanmar which previously they denied many times. After Bangladesh’s repeated assertion, Myanmar has already started taking them back although in smaller scale which is symbolically very important. With that promise the other members also reiterated the role of ASEAN and China in solving the problem.
The program was concluded by giving Vote of Thanks by Professor Dato. Baharuddin Ahmad, Distinguished Fellow and Vice Chairman of MWRC.