The Burmese/Myanmar government has received a list of 8,032 Rohingya that will be repatriated into the borders of Burma. The list went to Burmese Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe recently, who is coordinating with Bangladeshi officials. These repatriation efforts are essentially trying to get many of those who have fled, back to the home of their birth before they were driven out by the violence in recent months. This is a fraction of the number of Rohingya that have been driven across the border to the relative safety of Bangladesh — a number which is continuously growing and may soon reach 700,000 (over 1.1 million if you count refugees from earlier conflicts).
The growing numbers of refugees into Bangladesh come with an increasing number of reports that indicate a continuance of violence in Rakhine State, though the government has been denying these claims. The repatriation efforts have been met with skepticism on many levels, but even if they are desirable and attainable by many refugees, some may not want to return until they are certain the violence has subsided. Recently, the Burmese police drove a large chunk of the Rohingya out of one village by “acquiring” their land for a regimental base.
Sources tell SOFREP that there are several reasons behind any skepticism in regards to the repatriation efforts. The first and foremost is the widespread mistrust for the government, which is consistent across the board — be it from the Rohingya or the Karen on the other side of the country. When the violence has come to their doorstep time and time again, and when they are subsequently blamed for it, they lose trust in any promises made by the government — especially when it sounds too good to be true.
There is also concern surrounding the actual logistics surrounding the repatriation. Those who were on the run would have to somehow prove their citizenship — even if they ran with only what they could carry on their backs. Many lost children or relatives in the fighting, and it will be unlikely that those people remembered to bring any documentation during the fighting.
Sources have also been worried about the 1982 citizenship law, which essentially excludes Rohingya from being citizens in the first place — it doesn’t matter if their grandfather held a seat on parliament within the Burmese government after WWII, and if their father was born in Burma and they were born in Burma — if they are exclusively, unmixed Rohingya, they may not be considered citizens. Therefore, they may not qualify for “repatriation” if they were never technically citizens in the first place.
What is generally more expected, is that the government will provide the world with “examples” of repatriation efforts, while keeping the actual numbers quite low. This way they can quell international criticism while keeping their own intentions and efforts internal.
However, the Burmese government is not entirely separate from the international stage, and some have high hopes about the repatriation efforts. If they are completely legitimate, there will no doubt be significant issues in security. A mass influx of repatriation would be a prime time for criminal and terrorist organizations to find ways into Burma amidst the confusion and shuffle such an effort would require.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.