By Azad Majumder
Dhaka, Jan 30 (EFE).- Hopes to return home have faded away for Rohingya refugees living in crammed shelters in Bangladesh a year after the military coup in Myanmar.
Rohingyas were cautiously hopeful when army chief Min Aung Hlaing took control of their homeland arresting de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and replacing president Win Myint with army-backed vice-president Myint Swe on Feb.1, 2021.
Many Rohingyas held Suu Kyi responsible for their plight as she backed the army in a crackdown against the community and defended their actions in an international court.
But Rashid Ahmed, a Rohingya community leader from camp 25 of Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, said they had at least some hopes with democratically elected Suu Kyi in power.
“The military government became worse for us. I have some relatives still there, including my sister. Sometimes I talk to them. They are living in panic. They cannot go out of their home. If they want to do so, they need to take permission from authorities,” Ahmed told EFE over phone from his camp.
“It was not that tough before military took over. We are hoping for a democratic government that will give us our rights back. We don’t want life here under a tarpaulin. We want to go back,” he said.
Former school teacher Abdur Rahman, who left his country in October 2016 and took refuge in Bangladesh’s Ukhiya with his wife and children, said they have lost their all hopes with the military ruling Myanmar for a year now and unlikely to go anytime soon.
“Anug Sung Suu Ky was bad for only Rohingyas. But this military is bad for all ethnic groups. In the last year, we lost all hopes of getting repatriated. We don’t have any goal now,” said Rahman.
Fazal Ummat, an elderly Rohingya refugee from Camp-2 in Ukhiya, however, said their struggle is not about Suu Kyi.
“We want a free and democratic Myanmar. At the same time, the Rohingya struggle is not about one person or a leader. It is much bigger than that,” he said.
Around 738,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a campaign of persecution and violence launched by the Myanmar military in August 2017, which has been termed ethnic cleansing and possible genocide by the UN, while international courts are investigating the incidents for crimes against humanity.
Two attempts to start the repatriation of the refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar failed as the Rohingyas refused to return home without a guarantee of their citizenship and security.
A senior official of the Bangladesh foreign ministry, who could not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said talks were underway with Myanmar’s military government over Rohingya repatriation.
“The discussion is not closed. The talks over verification are ongoing. We have sent them lists of approximately 800,000 Rohingyas. They have given their opinion about around 42,000. They gave an opinion about, not necessarily they recognized all of them as a resident,” said the official.
The official said the joint working group formed to take the repatriation process forward has not met since the military takeover in Myanmar.
“We are mostly working on data sharing at the moment,” he said.
Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat said his office was ready to start the repatriation once a decision was made.
“As soon as we get clearance from the government, we can start it. We are ready at the ground level,” he said. EFE