Dhaka – Naypyidaw and Dhaka have agreed to begin repatriation of Rohingya Muslims in November, more than a year after the Myanmar’s brutal military that forced hundreds of thousands of them to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.
“We are looking forward to starting the repatriation by mid-November,” Bangladesh’s foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told reporters in Dhaka Tuesday after a meeting of Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Working Group formed to prepare the ground for the repatriation.
The two next door neighbours in November last year agreed to begin the voluntary repatriation of the refugees after the influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh following the violent crackdown in August 2017.
The process was, however, stalled thanks to the Myanmar’s dilly-dallying over the issue.
This time round, Haque did not specify the number of refugees, who have been living in squalid camps in south-eastern Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar, to be repatriated in the first batch.
Tuesday’s decision to begin the repatriation came a week after a United Nations fact finding mission reported that “genocide” was still on against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims entered Bangladesh after Myanmar launched a “clearance operation” in response to a series of attacks by suspected Muslim insurgents in northern Rakhine state on August 25, 2017.
Unknown number of Rohingya Muslims were killed in the crackdown, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Many survivors alleged they were tortured, their homes torched and that women raped by the soldiers and Buddhist vigilante groups.
Thousands of Rohingya are still fleeing to Bangladesh, Marzuki Darusman, chair of UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar, told a news conference in New York on Wednesday.
Those who stayed in Myanmar following last year’s military campaign are “continue to suffer the most severe” restrictions and repression, he added.
Myanmar’s Permanent Secretary of the foreign affairs ministry Myint Thu, who led his country in Tuesday’s meeting, said they have come up with “very concrete results” on Rohingya repatriation issue.
“We’ve shown our political will, flexibility, and accommodation in order to commence the repatriation at the earliest possible dates,” he told a joint news conference.
Thu is scheduled to visit the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar for Wednesday apparently to build confidence among those who were evicted from their homes.
Myanmar tried to assure that they have taken necessary steps to facilitate the process.
“We have trained the police, law and enforcement agencies in workshops – educating them against discrimination. Also, we have been raising awareness against such discriminations,” Thu told reporters in Dhaka.