Myanmar, Bangladesh promise to cooperate on Rohingya repatriation

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LOOKEAST REPORT

Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to work together to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees, officials said, but details remain thin as the humanitarian crisis deepens. Ties between the neighbours have been severely strained by army-led violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that has driven more than 600,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh since late August.

The exodus has saddled one of Asia’s poorest nations with a massive humanitarian crisis, with refugees too terrified to return to Rakhine. Dhaka and the UN have accused Myanmar’s army of ethnic cleansing and called for the full repatriation of the Muslim minority, who have crammed into makeshift camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.

Minister of Home Affairs for the government of Bangladesh Asaduzzaman Khan (R), shakes hands with Myanmar’s Home Affairs Minister Lt. Gen Kyaw Swe (L), during a meeting on security and law enforcement matters, in Nay Pyi Taw. Photo: Min Min/Mizzima

“Myanmar has agreed to stop continuous entry of displaced Myanmar nationals in Bangladesh and to bring normalcy back to the Rakhine State,” the Home Ministry said in a statement. But Myanmar offered a more measured commitment, saying only that refugees would need to be scrutinised for proof of their roots in Rakhine state.

We will accept after scrutinising… we will check whether they really stayed in Maungdaw and Buthidaung,” he said, referring to the hardest-hit districts in Rakhine that are now nearly empty of Rohingya residents

Both sides also agreed to form a joint working committee this coming November to arrange resettlement.

“We cannot say when we are going to receive (the refugees),” Tin Myint, from Myanmar’s Home Ministry, told reporters after the meeting.

“We will accept after scrutinising… we will check whether they really stayed in Maungdaw and Buthidaung,” he said, referring to the hardest-hit districts in Rakhine that are now nearly empty of Rohingya residents.

The UN said that over 600,000 refugees had fled Myanmar after the Tatmadaw (armed forces) retaliated against ARSA terrorists group which launched coordinated attacks against some police outposts in northern Rakhine Region.

Myanmar has rendered the Rohingya stateless with the government refusing to recognise them as a distinct ethnic group. Myanmar has vehemently rejected accusations of ethnic cleansing and defended the army campaign as a legitimate response to August 25 attacks by Rohingya militants.

Previous Myanmar government statements have suggested that any Rohingya with links to the militants would be barred from returning home. Even if the reparation plan goes forward, there is widespread concern over what the Rohingya will return to, since many of their villages have been razed by fires.

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