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The Great Pilot Repatriation Circus
Myanmar's Latest Spectacle
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up to witness the grand illusion of 2023: Myanmar's “Pilot Repatriation Plan” for the Rohingya! This masterful display of smoke and mirrors makes finding a comprehensive plan as rare as common sense in Naypyidaw's halls. But this isn't just any repatriation effort; it's a meticulously orchestrated dance, designed for the global stage, with Myanmar and Bangladesh leading the waltz. In this performance, the Rohingya, regrettably, are reduced to mere props, showcased momentarily before the curtain swiftly falls.
Enter the next act of this grand spectacle: the Myanmar junta, draped in cloaks of feigned concern, unveil their latest trick — the “Come and Talk” sessions, held in Teknaf on 31 October 2023. Here, the Rohingya representatives, armed with nothing but their voices and stories of refugee life, face a barrage of nods and smiles from the delegation, but sadly, no real answers. It's a game of charades, where the junta doesn’t even bother to feign listening or willingness to change, while the Rohingya are left to clutch at the straws of hope that change is on the horizon. Yet, as the day ends, it's clear to all: this repatriation plan, no more substantial than a house of cards, teeters on the brink, ready to collapse at the slightest touch of reality.
And, as if on cue for the grand finale, the scene shifts dramatically in the wake of the October 31 “Come and Talk” session. Enter Rakhine State, post-November 14, 2023: a grim aftermath where tanks patrol the streets of Sittwe, a heavy curfew casts a pall of fear, and a surge of death, destruction, mine explosions, arrests, and abductions sweeps through the townships. This descent into chaos, unfolding a mere two weeks after the departure of the junta's Pilot Repatriation delegation, stands in stark contradiction to the earlier diplomatic charades, shattering any illusions of a peaceful repatriation plan.
And we mustn't forget Bangladesh's role in this long-running saga. For over four decades, since 1978, Bangladesh has been a key player in this unsustainable repatriation charade, insisting and ensuring the show goes on. Their performance in this political theatre, spanning generations, has been executed with a finesse that makes it a spectacle in itself. In this generational political theatre, Bangladesh has played its part with mastery - a myopic mastery where each act of the play is a short-term gamble rather than a chapter in history's long narrative.
Read my full analysis of the “Pilot Repatriation” visit by the junta delegation - published today by DVB.