Japan to provide $3M to Myanmar for Rohingya return

BANGKOK (AP) – Japanese foreign minister yesterday urged Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to guarantee the safe and voluntary return of Rohingyas who have fled violence in troubled Rakhine state.

While Foreign Minister Taro Kono is visiting Myanmar, the Japanese government announced a grant of $3 million to Myanmar’s government to help facilitate the repatriation of the Rohingya.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees on November 23, and Myanmar said it would start the process by January 23. The exact numbers and extent of the repatriation is still unclear.

“We have decided to provide the aid in response to the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to represent an international message of support so that the repatriation can be carried out promptly,” said Foreign Ministry official Shinobu Yamaguchi in a statement.

Kono’s three-day visit to Myanmar includes travelling to Rakhine state. Humanitarian groups and independent media are prohibited from travelling to the area freely.

Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono after their joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naypyitaw, Myanmar yesterday. – AP

More than 650,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a brutal crackdown in which security forces have been accused of systematic abuses tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

During a meeting yesterday, Kono asked Suu Kyi’s government to allow humanitarian and media access to the affected area, the resettlement of returned refugees, and the implementation of recommendations made by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Kono also said Japan plans to give further aid of $20 million to improve humanitarian conditions and development in Rakhine state.

“We are thankful to Japan for its willingness to support the needs both for short term and long term,” Suu Kyi said at the joint news conference.

Yamaguchi stressed that Japan will monitor how the repatriation will be carried out. “The money will be paid in a timely manner based on the progress of repatriation,” Yamaguchi added.

Myanmar’s state-run media on Wednesday said authorities have started the land work to construct buildings to accommodate returned refugees from Bangladesh in northern Rakhine, where refugees will be temporarily placed after their citizenship is scrutinised.