Critics slam allegedly leaked text of secret UN-Myanmar agreement

This photograph taken on March 10, 2018, Rohingya women collects water from a pond at Shan Taung village in the outskirt of Mrauk U township located in Rakhine State close to Bangladesh border. / AFP PHOTO / Phyo Hein KYAW

The Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC) has published the text of what it claims to be the confidential agreement signed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Myanmar government earlier this month.

The agreement is meant to preserve the right of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to return to Myanmar. It is also meant to allow the UN agencies to assist the Myanmar government in creating conditions for refugees to return voluntarily and safely.

However, critics have pointed out that the agreement does not even mention the Rohingya by name and that it fails to address the most dire threat to Rohingyas’ safety — Myanmar’s refusal to grant them citizenship.

Under the agreement, Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration, and Population must “issue to all returnees the appropriate identification papers and ensure a clear and voluntary pathway to citizenship to those eligible.”

This description matches that of National Verification Cards (NVC), which Myanmar began issuing to Rohingyas ahead of the 2015 national election, stripping them of the right to vote.

“The most important part of this MoU is about identification papers. The paper will be like the National Verification Cards, which were widely rejected by Rohingyas since 2015,” said Rohingya activist and FRC coordinator Nay San Lwin.

He went on: “A pathway to citizenship? Rohingyas were once recognized as citizens and as an official ethnic group. We need full citizenship, like other Burmese across the country. In the citizenship card, the ethnic name ‘Rohingya’ alone has to be clearly mentioned.”

The agreement also says that “returnees will enjoy the same freedom of movement as all other Myanmar nationals in Rakhine State,” implying that they will not have the same freedom that other Myanmar citizens have to move around or beyond the country.

Other critics have pointed out that the agreement glosses over the causes of the Rohingya refugees’ displacement, referring to children “born out of unwarranted incidents” rather than to the thousands of women who gave birth last month to babies that were the product of rape by Myanmar security forces.

A spokesperson for UNHCR told Coconuts: “We don’t comment on leaked documents.”

The full text is below:

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