Myanmar, Bangladesh schedule Rohingya repatriation

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar and Bangladesh will soon make a second attempt to start repatriating Rohingya, 700,000 of whom fled a security crackdown in Myanmar almost two years ago, officials from the two countries and the United Nations said on 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 government spokesman Zaw Htay
Rohingya refugees sell vegetables as girls take shelter under an umbrella as they leave a makeshift school at Kutupalong refugee camp. PHOTOS: AP

Caroline Gluck, a spokeswoman for the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees, told The Associated Press that the Bangladesh government has asked for its help in verifying 3,450 people who signed up for voluntary repatriation. She said the list was whittled down from 22,000 names that Bangladesh had sent to Myanmar for verification.

Leaders of the Rohingya refugee community in the camps said they had not been consulted on the matter and were unaware of plans for any imminent return.

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.