Dhaka, Naypyidaw ink deal on Rohingya

Source:Agencies Published: 2017/11/23 23:13:41

Two countries agree to begin returning refugees in 2 months

A Rohingya refugee woman with her child in her lap washes a cooking pot in Thankhali refugee camp in the Ukhia district, Bangladesh on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Bangladesh and Myanmar will start repatriating Rohingya refugees in two months, Dhaka said Thursday, as global pressure mounts over the crisis that has sent more than half a million people fleeing across the border.

Following talks between Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and Dhaka's Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, and after weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Thursday.

In a brief statement, Dhaka said they had agreed to start returning the refugees to Myanmar in two months.

Around 620,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh since August to what is now the world's largest refugee camp, running from a Myanmar military crackdown. Tensions erupted into bouts of bloodshed in 2012 that pushed more than 100,000 Rohingya into grim displacement camps.

Dhaka said that a working group would be set up within three weeks to agree the arrangements for the repatriation.

"This is a primary step. [They] will take back [Rohingya]. Now we have to start working," Ali told reporters in Naypyidaw.

However, it remains unclear how many Rohingya will be allowed back and how long the process will take.

Rights groups have raised concerns about the process, including where the minority will be resettled after hundreds of their villages were razed, and how their safety will be ensured in a country where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging.

The US supports the Myanmar government's commitment to creating the conditions necessary for all Rohingya refugees to return to their homes safely and voluntarily, and welcomes the recent exchanges between Myanmar and Bangladesh on repatriation, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said.

The local situation in Myanmar has caused "tremendous suffering and forced hundreds of thousands of men, women and children to flee their homes" and to seek refuge in Bangladesh, Tillerson said in a statement posted on the website of the US State Department on Wednesday.

"This is a difficult and complex situation. Many stakeholders must work together to ensure progress," he said.

In a teleconference later on Tuesday, two senior State Department officials said on condition of anonymity that the US was looking at "additional sanctions targeting individuals responsible for specific acts of violence."

"This current crisis was touched off by attacks that were perpetrated on August 25 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army against more than 20 military posts inside Myanmar," said one of the officials.

Earlier this month, Suu Kyi urged solving the Rakhine issue in three ways:  focusing on a diplomatic approach, reconstruction for development and security for the local people.

Myanmar's government has been implementing short-term projects in northern Rakhine after the region regained security and stability wrecked by terrorists in the past three months.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Saturday that China is willing to help Bangladesh and Myanmar properly solve the Rohingya issue.


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