Myanmar, Bangladesh schedule Rohingya Muslims repatriation

Vastavam web: Myanmar and Bangladesh will soon make a second attempt to start repatriating Rohingya Muslims, 700,000 of whom fled a security crackdown in Myanmar almost two years ago, officials from the two countries and the United Nations said Friday. Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay, speaking in his country’s capital, Naypyitaw, said the parties concerned had agreed that the process would begin next Thursday.

Bangladesh Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said the identities of the refugees have been confirmed by Myanmar and they could go back there if they want. Speaking in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, he said the government had ordered local officials in Cox’s Bazar district to locate those on the list in the four refugee camps there, but their repatriation would only happen if they want to return voluntarily.

He said Bangladesh is ready to provide support to any refugees who wish to return home, but also would not use force to make them go back. Myanmar’s military in August 2017 launched a counterinsurgency campaign in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The army operation led to the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and accusations that security forces committed mass rapes, killings and burned thousands of homes.

The UN-established Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar last year recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Myanmar has rejected the report and any suggestion its forces did anything wrong. In July, Myanmar officials went to the camps in Bangladesh to talk to the refugees about their plans and preparations to bring them back, in the latest of several similar visits. So far, most refugees appear to distrust the promises and believe it is too dangerous to return.

Gluck said it is unclear when any repatriation might begin, given the need to find and check all the individuals and the fact that there is a major holiday at the moment in Bangladesh. “It’s very hard to say whether people will accept voluntary repatriation this time round,” Gluck said. “They tell us very clearly we want to go back with … full rights. . They are not willing to go back if nothing on the ground has changed.” The Rohingya have long been treated as outsiders in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though their families have lived in the country for generations.

Nearly all Rohingya have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are denied freedom of movement and other basic rights. Zaw Htay said at a news conference that his country’s authorities had checked if the people on the list had previously lived in Myanmar and whether they had been involved in what he called “terrorism attacks,” a reference to sporadic armed actions by Rohingya insurgents.