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Bangladesh, Myanmar agree to draw up plan for refugee repatriation

The United Nations has called the exodus of 507,000 Rohingya since late August the world's fastest-developing refugee emergency, and said Buddhist-majority Myanmar is engaging in ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya Muslim minority.

By: Reuters | Dhaka | Updated: October 2, 2017 5:03 pm
Rohingya crisis, Rohingya Muslims, Rohingya Myanmar, Myanmar, bangladesh, Bangladesh Rohingyas, Rohingya people, Myanmar said its forces are battling Rohingya “terrorists” who triggered the latest wave of violence with coordinated attacks on the security forces on August 25. (Source: AP photo)

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed on Monday to set up a “working group” to plan the repatriation of more than half a million Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled to Bangladesh to escape an army crackdown, the Bangladeshi foreign minister said. The United Nations has called the exodus of 507,000 Rohingya since late August the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency, and said Buddhist-majority Myanmar is engaging in ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya Muslim minority. Myanmar denies that. It said its forces are battling Rohingya “terrorists” who triggered the latest wave of violence with coordinated attacks on the security forces on August 25.

Myanmar said more than 500 people have been killed since, most of them insurgents, whom it has accused of attacking civilians and setting most of the fires that have reduced to ashes more than half of more than 400 Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine State.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali said he and Myanmar official Kyaw Tint Swe had agreed in their talks to set up the working group to draw up plans for repatriation. “We are looking forward to a peaceful solution to the crisis,” Ali told reporters. Kyaw Tint Swe did not speak to the media and government spokesmen in Myanmar were not immediately available for comment.

Waves of Rohingya have taken refuge in Bangladesh over the years complaining of persecution, in particular in the late 1970s, the early 1990s and in October last year, following smaller insurgent attacks on the security forces. The neighbours have agreed on repatriation plans before, but the fundamental problem – the status of Rohingya in Myanmar – remains unsettled.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots in Myanmar that go back centuries, with communities marginalised and subjected to bouts of communal violence over the years. Problems of statelessness had to be tackled, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told a meeting in Geneva. “Nowhere is the link between statelessness and displacement more evident than with the Rohingya community,” he said.

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The crisis over the treatment of the Rohingya is the biggest problem Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has had to face since forming a government last year after winning a landmark 2015 election. The Nobel peace laureate, in an address to the nation last month, said Myanmar was ready to start a verification process under a 1993 agreement with Bangladesh and “refugees from this country will be accepted without any problem”.

But many refugees are gloomy about the prospects of going back, fearing they will not be able to furnish the documents they anticipate Myanmar will demand to prove they have a right to return. Myanmar has refused to grant access to a UN fact-finding mission but Suu Kyi last year appointed a team led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to draw up recommendations on solving problems in Rakhine.

The commission presented its recommendations on Aug. 24, a day before the insurgent attacks, among them a review of a law that links citizenship and ethnicity and leaves most Rohingya stateless. The panel also recommended that the government punish rights violations, ensure the right to freedom of movement and invest in infrastructure to lift the state out of poverty. Suu Kyi, in her address to the nation last month, said she was committed to the recommendations. There were already about 300,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh before the latest exodus.

‘GHOST TOWN’

In Myanmar, the government took diplomats to Rakhine to let them see the situation. “Maungdaw feels like a ghost town,” Swiss ambassador Paul Seger said on Twitter, as he arrived in a main town in the north of Rakhine. Myanmar has blocked most aid workers and the media from the area, despite calls from Western countries for access to deal with what aid groups fear is an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

The diplomats were also due to be taken to the Rohingya village of Ah Nauk Pyin, which Reuters reported last month was cut off and threatened by hostile Rakhine Buddhist neighbours. An itinerary of the trip referred to the report. Suu Kyi has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out strongly enough on behalf of the long-persecuted minority and of defending the army action. She has no power over security policy under a military-drafted constitution and the public in Myanmar, where Buddhist nationalism has surged over recent years, is generally hostile towards the Rohingya.

The United States, in its strongest criticism of Myanmar over the crisis, called last week on countries to suspend providing weapons to Myanmar’s military. But it stopped short of threatening to reimpose sanctions. A small protest against Western pressure and foreign media coverage was held in Myanmar’s biggest city of Yangon. A message on one banner accused the United States, Britain and others of nuturing Islamic domination in Asia “for their vested interest to beat China and India”.

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  1. Shyamal Ganguly
    Oct 2, 2017 at 5:21 pm
    Mynamar must impose the following rules before they start taking back the RONGHIA MUSLIMS. Sign a pledge of allegiance - Country first Islam second. No Madrassa. No public show of Burqa and hijab. No Islamic propaganda and link with Islamic cults. They are Burmese first.
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    1. R
      Rai
      Oct 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm
      Hi Mr holl ... first try to undustand your own religion first and then comment on other ... don't know what u speaking ....
      (0)(0)
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    2. S
      SP
      Oct 2, 2017 at 4:55 pm
      Most of the Muslim problems happen because of two things. One: they get support from rich Muslims to set up Islamic states in non-Islamic counties wherever they can. Two: Most of the human rights bodies are again funded by rich Muslim countries who again raise hue and cry when the violent movements are crushed by the Governments by showing violence of only one side. They again ignore movements within Islamic world such as Baloch, Kurd, etc. On top of that we have countries such as UK and in Europe to show their liberal face side with Islamists till recently. Now that their population is getting driven over by Islamists all of a sudden killing innocents, getting stabbed or whatever, they are being more circumspect. Otherwise it is the same story whether it is Palastine or whatever. Some places new Muslim nations were even formed.
      (2)(0)
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      1. D
        d
        Oct 2, 2017 at 4:00 pm
        Is this Hindu stan or Muslim stan,?? More than 70 percent news in IE on katwaas. Now katwaas ppulation in India is 25 percent and so much news coverage on katwaas. What will happen when these katwaas ppulation reach 40 percent.??
        (2)(0)
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        1. M
          MyTake
          Oct 2, 2017 at 3:44 pm
          One thing is sure Rohingas will think twice before inviting terrorists to act on their behalf.
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            RAKESH KUMAR
            Oct 2, 2017 at 3:14 pm
            Let India seaze this opportunity and deport all these shantidoots to myanmar.
            (6)(4)
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