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Will Rohingya Refugees Start Returning to Myanmar in 2018?
Will Rohingya Refugees Start Returning to Myanmar in 2018?
Myanmar Foreign Minister and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attended the opening ceremony of the Union Peace Conference at Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital city, on 12 January 2016. AFP/Ye Aung Thu
Briefing 149 / Asia

缅甸和平进程:实现政治对话

在历经了近70年的武装冲突之后,缅甸正面临着一个少有但逐渐消逝的机遇,即最终达成一个可容纳各方的联邦解决方案。政府须以更灵活的方式来打消反对派的疑虑,武装团体则不应在预备会谈中原地踏步,并参与到实质性的讨论中。

概述

在当前政府任期内通过政治谈判达成协议是解决缅甸近70年武装冲突的最佳机会。该冲突不仅使少数民族的生活苦不堪言,还阻碍了整个缅甸的发展。昂山素季及其政府已将和平进程视为其首要任务。尽管前任政府也做出过类似尝试,但昂山素季无疑具备了众多优势,例如她在国内的政治名望、广泛的选民支持和强有力的国际支持,包括中国给予的条件性支持。在这些因素的推动下,几乎所有武装团体都参加了8月31日开始的彬龙-21和平会谈,而前任政府则没能做到这一点。但若要取得真正的进展,政府和武装团体还需调整其采取的方法,并尽快开始进行实质性政治对话。

彬龙-21会议的重要意义不在于其内容,而在于其广泛接纳了各武装团体。但其面临的挑战仍不容低估。对许多武装团体而言,与会并不意味着支持进程,而是因为他们别无选择。他们之间,有多方认为其受到不公对待,而且会议组织混乱无序。最大的反对派武装组织佤邦联合党(UWSP)更是仅仅派遣了一个低级别的代表团,并于次日退出了会议。而近数月来,战斗不断升级,缅甸军方还动用了空中武力和远程轰炸,这则进一步破坏了各方之间的信任。

这些问题虽并非出人意料;而关键在于和平进程是否具备应变的韧性。彬龙-21会议虽已宣布,其将每六个月定期举行(下次会议定于2017年2月),但这一生硬拘泥的时间表无法为克服障碍提供必要的灵活性。同时,另一挑战则是,政府的和平秘书处,即民族和解与和平中心(NRPC)缺乏足够的权能。说服多数武装团体签署《全国停火协议》(NCA)将需要艰难的谈判。而政府和军方均已明确表明,NCA是其参与未来政治对话进程——此后的彬龙-21会议及相关讨论——的必要条件。但如果军方继续在地面采取强硬姿态,那这一过程将会更加困难。

先已有八个武装团体于2015年10月签署了《全国停火协议》,但至少仍有十支武装力量保持怀疑。包括佤邦联合党在内的一些组织已经有了更好的实质性自治制度,并担心签署停火协议会削弱他们的地位。其他力量则担心,一旦他们签署协议,新政府会采取更单边的和平进程措施,并将强制推行政治解决方案,而非通过谈判寻求和解。另还有三支未签署双边停火协议的武装团体则至政府要求于不顾,即拒绝发表在原则上停止武装斗争的声明。

政府应考虑在和平会议上采用更灵活的时间表,并在整个和平进程中克制单边强势的态度,从而给予各武装团体信心;其还应确保民间社会、女性和青年能更多地参与和平进程;并采取措施确保民族和解与和平中心在能力上得到必要的支持。

各武装团体则需要认识到,虽然他们对这一进程有正当的疑虑,但他们不太可能再有更好的、通过谈判达到政治解决的机遇。昂山素季已表示坚决支持联邦和民主的解决方案,而且她具备实现和平所需的、前所未有的政治名望,特别来自多数缅甸选民的支持。开始讨论方案轮廓的时候已经到了,各方不应继续在预备步骤上徘徊。

其它选择则差强人意,且时间并不站在武装份子一边。除非双方抓住当前的机遇,不令通过谈判达成和解的可能性失之交臂,否则接下来将多半是旷日持久的乱局,如此一来,少数民族的苦衷将难以得到解决,他们提出的联邦制度、平等待遇等要求更是无法实现。这不仅将破坏缅甸边境地区的和平稳定,更会阻扰缅甸成为一个繁荣、宽容、民主的国家。

仰光/布鲁塞尔,2016年10月19日

Op-Ed / Asia

Will Rohingya Refugees Start Returning to Myanmar in 2018?

Originally published in Nikkei Asian Review

Most went back home from Bangladesh in two earlier exoduses, but this time is different.

The signing of a repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh on 23 November has raised expectations — and concerns — of an imminent return of Rohingya refugees to northern Rakhine state. But the reality is that no repatriation is likely in the foreseeable future.

Many of the 700,000 Rohingya who fled over the past year would choose to return under the right circumstances — Myanmar is their home, where they have lived for generations, and they see no future for themselves and their children in the Bangladesh camps. But much would need to change.

First and foremost is physical security. This is a deeply traumatized population, many of whom suffered or witnessed acts of horrific violence. They will not be ready to return unless they are assured of their safety. This seems an unlikely prospect, given that the government and military both deny the extent of the abuses that occurred — the military exonerated itself through an internal investigation that found not a single shot had been fired at civilians and state media regularly denies allegations of abuses reported by human rights organizations and the international media. Many of the abuses, including sexual violence, were perpetrated by military-backed vigilante groups made up of non-Muslim villagers in the area, who operate with considerable impunity.

Second is the ability to sustain livelihoods. The repatriation agreement provides that people will be able to return to their places of origin. If this is allowed in practice, and they are able to reclaim their land, they fundamentally require freedom of movement, to reach their farms and fishing grounds, to go where their day labor is needed and to access markets. This requires reassurance on physical security, as well as lifting the onerous movement restrictions and curfews put in place following attacks in late 2016 and August 2017 by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army militants.

Communities in this area have always been inter-dependent, with Buddhist traders buying from Muslim farmers and fishermen, and much of the economy is dependent on Muslim labor. The apartheid-like segregation that exists in central Rakhine state and which some local politicians are advocating in the north is not economically viable — and in the long run will breed suspicion, distrust and conflict.

Third is a more hopeful future. ARSA emerged as decades of oppression and progressive marginalization of the Rohingya tipped into desperation and despair. With no hope for a better future and no way out, some were ready to contemplate violent responses and the militants found a fertile recruiting ground. Refugees will not willingly return to a situation of such hopelessness.

Meaningful progress

Changing that requires meaningful progress on implementing key recommendations of the advisory commission led by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Myanmar government has embraced these recommendations, but there is little sign of rapid progress. The subsequent appointment of an Implementation Committee for the recommendations, and recently an advisory board to the Implementation Committee that includes several eminent international figures, suggests an administration focused on diplomatic strategy instead of the much more difficult practical steps needed to change the situation on the ground.

These steps would have to be far-reaching. The government and military would have to give clear, credible security guarantees. Rakhine vigilantes would have to be disarmed and their impunity ended. The paramilitary Border Guard Police that operates only in northern Rakhine would need to be disbanded and replaced by a new force with different personnel, training and uniforms — preferably drawn from other religious and ethnic minority communities from outside Rakhine state, to generate trust and reduce the risk of abuses.

A path to rapid, good-faith verification of citizenship for Rohingya returnees — and those who never fled — is required. This means abandoning the government's current two-step process, where Rohingya must first apply for "national verification cards" which they overwhelmingly reject out of fear they will lead to a permanent second-class immigration status. In recent years, only a tiny number of these card holders have proceeded to the second step and had their citizenship status determined, whereas a majority of Rohingya likely qualify for full citizenship even under the restrictive 1982 citizenship law currently in force.

[Myanmar's] government and military would have to give clear, credible security guarantees. Rakhine vigilantes would have to be disarmed and their impunity ended.

The few Rohingya who have been granted citizenship cards, and those who have always held them, are in practice no better off than the rest. They find themselves still confined to displacement camps or unable to travel within or out of Rakhine state for vague administratively-imposed reasons of "security." Rampant discrimination and enforced segregation must be addressed to allow freedom of movement — essential for access to government health, education and other services, and for employment.

The sad truth is that many of these measures are almost inconceivable in the political environment in Myanmar today. They would be vehemently resisted by many ethnic Rakhine, many of the most high-profile Buddhist monks in the country, and many in the civil service and security forces. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and her government may be genuine in their desire to see a return of refugees, but they have so far failed to grapple with the enormity of the obstacles that must be overcome to bring the refugees home and turn the tide on this tragic saga.