A report by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) predicting half a million Rohingya refugees will return to Myanmar in two years has left observers incredulous for glossing over army atrocities, ignoring an ongoing civil war in Rakhine State and failing to mention the persecuted Muslim minority by name.
The leaked report, penned by the Southeast Asian bloc's "Emergency Response and Assessment Team" (ASEAN-ERAT) and seen by Agence France-Presse (AFP), is expected to be released in the coming weeks. It gives a glowing assessment of Myanmar's efforts to entice Rohingya refugees back from Bangladesh, where some 740,000 have taken shelter in fetid, overcrowded camps. Claiming to root out insurgents, Myanmar's military drove the Rohingya from Rakhine and over the border in a 2017 crackdown, the latest in several waves of persecution. Evidence of widespread murder, rape and arson prompted U.N. investigators to call for the prosecution of top Myanmar generals for "genocide." The two countries signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 but so far virtually no Rohingya have volunteered to return out of fear for their safety and rights.
The word "Rohingya" is not used in the report, which instead refers to the community as "Muslims." It claims automated rather than manual processing of returnees would mean repatriation will be "completed in a little more than two years." The report praises Myanmar for efforts to ensure "smooth and orderly" returns, echoing the Southeast Asian country's view that delays in repatriation are due to bungled paperwork by Bangladeshi officials. Bangladesh puts the blame for the setback on Myanmar and says no refugees have yet volunteered to return.