Bangladesh, Myanmar finally strike Rohingya repatriation deal

Myanmar's government has claimed that the Rohingya chose to burn their own villages and then willingly self-deported to Bangladesh en masse - more than 600,000 have fled in the last three months - but that claim has been widely disputed and debunked by reporters on the ground.

The premier made the call at a time when Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali was pursuing a deal with Myanmar to being the process of repatriation of the Myanmar's minority Muslims.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is calling the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state that triggered a mass relocation of Muslim Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh ethnic cleansing. "We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us", said Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, referring to the registration forms the Rohingya must fill in with personal details.

"The key test of any democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations, such as the ethnic Rohingya and other minority populations", Tillerson said.

Under the deal, the repatriation process is expected to begin in two months, diplomatic sources in Dhaka told The Hindu.

Later, Mahmood told reporters that this is the "first step".

It also doesn't mention a specific timeframe for concluding the repatriation, any clause for safeguarding the interest of Bangladesh and the refugees or the Rakhine Advisory Commission which recommended review of the controversial 1982 citizenship law, they added.

"In the case of the Rohingya, this is so severe that it amounts to a widespread and systemic attack on a civilian population, which is clearly linked to their ethnic (or racial) identity, and therefore legally constitutes apartheid, a crime against humanity under global law", Amnesty said. A few Rohingyas have "white-cards" but they expired in 2015.

United States officials reject the notion of waning USA leadership on issues like the Rohingya.

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Rohingyas entered Bangladesh over the last one year following military crackdowns in Rakhine State.

"The idea that Burma will now welcome them back to their smoldering villages with open arms is laughable", said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at Human Rights Watch.

Tillerson's statement Wednesday comes a day after a U.S. Senate delegation to Myanmar said the crisis in the Rakhine state "has all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing".

"I reaffirmed the United States' strong commitment to Burma's successful democratic transition as the elected government strives to implement reforms, bring peace and reconciliation to the nation, and resolve a devastating crisis in Rakhine State".

"No provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued".

Bangladesh had seen influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar also in 1978, 1991 and 2016.

In its statement, Myanmar State Counsellor's Office said, "Western countries as well the OIC had portrayed the matter as an worldwide issue by passing resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly". Almost one million Rohingya have been forced to leave their homes, many fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

Ms. Suu Kyi's office called Thursday's agreement a "win-win situation for both countries", saying the issue should be "resolved amicably through bilateral negotiations".

  • Adam Floyd