In late June, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Beijing with Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor U Kyaw Tint Swe of Myanmar and Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali. The three sides exchanged frank views about solving the Rohingya issue and reached understanding on four points.
Illustration: Liu Rui/Global Times
The common understanding on the four points is a continuation of the three-phase proposal put forward by China to address the issue. The proposal, which can be accepted by both Myanmar and Bangladesh, is aimed at playing a constructive role in resolving the conflict.
The Rohingya issue is complicated and solving it is arduous. In the near term, security in Rakhine state of Myanmar needs to be restored, bringing back peace and tranquility. In the medium term, a plausible solution should be offered to settle down Rohingya refugees. In the long run, the Rohingya issue should be resolved and the root cause of conflict between different ethnic groups in Rakhine state should be eradicated.
In this context, China's three-phase proposal will fundamentally solve the issue. The first phase is about ceasefire and restoration of social order to bring back stability and a safe environment for the local people. The direct cause for the exodus of Rohingyas is unrest and insecurity in the state.
In the second phase, Bangladesh and Myanmar are encouraged to talk to find a feasible approach to sort out checking, repatriation and reception of refugees, during which the international community should play a facilitating role.
The third phase, which is the most difficult one, involves eradicating the root cause of the Rohingya crisis while ensuring the development of the region. The crisis is closely linked with Rakhine's poverty and competition between ethnic groups for resources. Therefore, development is the key.
The implementation of the three-phase solution requires talks between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The solution not only details the process, but also clarifies the role of the international community. In this sense, it has provided a suitable condition for the two countries to resolve the issue.
The four points on which an understanding has been reached are: "Immediately improve the situation in Rakhine State through stopping violence-repatriation-development; the priority at this stage is to repatriate refugees to Myanmar from Bangladesh, and take concrete measures to realize the repatriation; based on the two countries' wishes, China is willing to provide assistance in resettling them, which includes emergency assistance and reconstruction; boost cooperation in developing the border areas between Myanmar and Bangladesh, and improve the living standards of locals."
Among them, the three-phase plan of stopping violence-repatriation-development has been mentioned again and continues to be agreed upon by Myanmar and Bangladesh. The four points of consensus show the determination of the three countries to push forward this plan.
China will not be a bystander, but has categorically said that it will provide emergency assistance and help in reconstruction. This is the role China should play as a neighbor of both Myanmar and Bangladesh. It also shows that Beijing tries to shoulder responsibility in international affairs.
Currently, Myanmar and Bangladesh are working on the second phase. The two have reached an agreement on refugee reception and verification. But given the pressure of Western opinion and complexity of the situation in Rakhine, they have not made satisfactory progress.
The achievements made in giving effect to the four points may become vital in the evolution of the Rakhine issue. They will help Myanmar and Bangladesh win humanitarian assistance and moral support of the international community. But the international community should also realize the difficulties and time-consuming process of resolving the Rakhine issue and provide necessary assistance.
The author is a research fellow with The Charhar Institute and the College of ASEAN Studies at Guangxi University for Nationalities.
Cover image: Rohingya refugees hold banners and placards during the visit of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, July 2, 2018. (Photo: VCG)