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Is Myanmar changing its tune?

Asia-Pacific

Is Myanmar changing its tune?

Is Myanmar changing its tune?

A Myanmar official signs a MoU on the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh with a UN representative in Myanmar, June 6, 2018. PHOTO: Office of Myanmar State Counsellor

Bangladesh’s decision to respond to the ICC’s request regarding the Rohingya situation, particularly about the territorial jurisdiction of ICC, is a welcome development. It’s encouraging to see that Bangladesh, at least presently, is making a prudent move to consider options beyond the bilateral arrangement with Myanmar regarding repatriations of about 750,000 refugees. The futile policy of “putting all eggs in one basket” seems to have run its course with no visible results.

This decision coincides with the signing of MOUs between UN agencies and the Myanmar government. Understandably, signing of these MOUs didn’t come as an isolated act, but also with other indications of a new tact of the Myanmar government. These developments include a statement by the national security adviser U Thaung Tun that Myanmar is open to accepting all refugees, Aung San Suu Kyi’s meetings with military leaders, and high-level meetings between the Indian government and Myanmar in recent days. All these may provide an impression of a U-turn of the Myanmar government. It sounds like a new tune. But whether these are paving the road for refugee repatriation is an open question.

Myanmar’s new tune is hardly a result of a change of heart, for there have not been an acknowledgement of the heinous acts in Rakhine State since August 2017, which is tantamount to acts of genocide, or any discussion about the state policies of ethnic cleansing over the past decades that engendered the current situation. Thus, it begs the question, why did Naypyidaw even bother to show humility after its previous mood of blatantly ignoring the international community? Perhaps the road ahead, especially the likelihood of any acceptable solution to the crisis, can be assumed from the causes of, and conditions for, the rhetoric and actions of Myanmar.

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