Myanmar to face EU pressure in Feb over Rohingya crisis

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The European Union may impose more authentic pressure on Myanmar in February to enable it to create an environment for the sustainable return of Rohingyas from Bangladesh.

"I'm sure there'll be new (EU) council conclusions on Myanmar in February. I hope there'll be more pressure. The only thing is to put more pressure on Myanmar," EU Head of Delegation Ambassador Rensje Teerink said in an interview.

In October last year, the Council of the EU in its conclusions said it is likely to consider additional measures if the situation does not improve but also stands ready to respond accordingly to positive developments.

The EU envoy, however, said she is yet to know what the conclusions will contain -- whether it will be arms embargo or targeted sanctions on Myanmar government and army.

Ambassador Teerink who arrived here four months back, also said probably there will be more individual targeted sanctions on some of the generals.

On Wednesday, Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on the Rohingya crisis laid emphasis on imposing arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Myanmar and its senior officials respectively to create a safe environment for Rohingyas to return to their homeland from Bangladesh.

"I think it's time to impose an arms embargo on the Myanmar army, including targeted sanctions against the generals who are behind these atrocities," APHR Chairperson and Malaysian MP Charles Santiago said seeking a role from India, China and Russia who sell arms to Myanmar.

Santiago also sought steps to deploy peacekeeping force to oversee the movement of Rohingyas.

He said without the presence of peacekeeping force repatriation will be difficult, in other words, he said, it will be almost impossible. "The repatriation should be safe and voluntary one."

Giving her second observation on the Rohingya situation, Ambassador Teerink said they can put pressure on the Myanmar government but the question is how they can convince people in Rakhine to welcome Rohingyas.

The EU Ambassador said they could imagine that many Rohingyas are afraid of going back to Myanmar, according to UNB report.

On January 16, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on 'Physical Arrangement' which will facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland from Bangladesh.

The 'Physical Arrangement' stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start of repatriation.

Asked about the way-out if repatriation process fails and subsequent third-country settlement, the EU Ambassador said, "A third-country settlement is very difficult. We've a migration crisis at our doorsteps as well."

Teerink said they are also looking at the OIC but they have not seen much force coming from the OIC that they would be eager to take Rohingyas. "For Europe, it (3rd country settlement) is difficult."

The Ambassador, however, said Rohingya crisis is not Bangladesh's problem but Bangladesh is a victim of this crisis.

"Roots lie in Myanmar," she said adding that the government of Myanmar will continue to be embodied that they can get away with it if there is no strong pressure on Myanmar.

Appreciating Bangladesh's role, the EU Ambassador said this humanitarian gesture is really admirable. "International community cannot leave Bangladesh alone (to deal with the crisis)."

In September, the European Commission announced additional humanitarian aid of €3 million to address the most pressing needs of Rohingya civilians. The funding came on top of the €12 million announced in May 2017.

The EU has been providing humanitarian support to Myanmar and Bangladesh for many years.