Myanmar on Friday unveiled its three-stage plan for return and rehabilitation of around 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims, who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in what the UN called “ethnic cleansing” by the Myanmar Army.
Myanmar Home Minister Kyaw Swe, who is on a three-day visit to Dhaka, on Friday met his Bangladeshi counterpart Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal and discussed along with senior officials the repatriation plan for Rohingya refugees.
“Myanmar said they planned a three-stage process – taking them (Rohingyas) back, ensuring their livelihood and then awarding them with the nationality,” Kamal told a news briefing following a meeting with his Myanmar counterpart.
He said Naypyidaw (Myanmar capital) appeared to be sincere in their comments as they acknowledged to the facts involving the situation what Bangladesh side pointed out and “we are getting some confidence they will take their nationals back in line with the Kofi Annan Commission Report”.
Kamal, however, said the Bangladesh side repeatedly expressed concerns about the hostile situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the scene of atrocities, and said unless the safety and food supplies for the refugees were ensured, the Rohingyas would again come back while the number of these forcibly displaced Myanmar people in Bangladesh now stood at more than a million.
“We also told them till now nearly 150 of them (Rohingyas) are entering into Bangladesh daily while some 6,500 Rohingyas have taken refuge at a makeshift camp on the Myanmar side of the border,” he said.
The Bangladesh minister said his counterpart acknowledged the fact and “we planned a meeting on February 20 in a bordering Myanmar district to make immediate arrangements at least to ensure the return of the Rohingyas languishing on borders”.
Swe yesterday called on Bangladesh president Abdul Hamid and apprised him that Naypyidaw was ready to take back Rohingyas under a deal the countries signed late last year.
The repatriation was scheduled to begin last month but Bangladesh said it needed more time to prepare and the security situation was a concern while Khan told reporters that Dhaka earlier handed over Myanmar a complete list of Rohingyas and “today gave another list as they sought seeking the names on the basis of the areas they lived in (Rakhine)”.
Myanmar ambassador to the UN Hau Do Suan said it had given Bangladesh a list of 508 Hindus and 750 Muslims “verified as Myanmar residents, to be included in the first batch of repatriation” and set up two reception centres and a transit camp to accommodate them before permanent resettlement.
About 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled their home to take refuge in Bangladesh in the latest and biggest spate of exodus since late August when Myanmar’s military launched a security crackdown in northern Rakhine state.
Myanmar has said it launched “clearance” operations against terrorists and has dismissed as false allegations from witnesses and survivors that troops and Buddhist mobs engaged in killings and rapes of Rohingya and set fires that wiped out villages.
The bilateral meeting came three days after UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told the Security Council that conditions were not right for the voluntarily return of Rohingyas as Myanmar did not addressed their exclusion and denial of rights and citizenship.
Grandi said Rohingyas continued to flee Myanmar and thousands more were expected still to try to leave.
Bangladesh had appealed to the international community to mount a sustained pressure on Myanmar for safe, dignified and immediate return of the Rohingyas as international aid for the refugees appeared to be dwindling ahead of the monsoon season when flooding will also pose a threat and water-borne diseases could become more prevalent.