Bangladesh is in negotiations with Myanmar aimed at hammering out a deal to repatriate thousands of persecuted displaced Rohingya Muslim refugees, the country’s Foreign Ministry says.
“Bangladesh and Myanmar are in the process of negotiation for a bilateral agreement for repatriation of displaced people and expect to form a Joint Working Group to facilitate the repatriation,” said a Foreign Ministry statement, quoting remarks by Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali at a meeting in the capital Dhaka on Sunday.
Meanwhile, a senior aide to Bangladeshi foreign minister said he would leave for Myanmar late on Sunday to attend an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Monday and Tuesday, adding that he would stay another couple of days for bilateral talks on the Rohingya refugees.
The unnamed aide expressed hope for an agreement on allowing Rohingya to return to Myanmar, saying, “Both countries have almost reached an understanding on this issue and there are a few points (still) to be agreed … We hope to reach an agreement.”
Stung by international criticism and accusations of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar in early November said it was ready to set up a repatriation process. Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has said Rohingyas who can prove they were resident in Myanmar would be accepted back.
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has so far done almost nothing to end the violence in Rakhine State despite increasing pressure from the international community.
Rohingya suffering causes international outcry
During the weekend, a US congressional delegation, European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden and Japan visited Rohingya camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar to raise awareness of their plight.
“We support Bangladesh’s efforts toward a lasting solution, including the repatriation of displaced persons,” Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono told his Bangladeshi counterpart at their meeting in Dhaka on Sunday.
Mogherini told reporters: “More than putting pressure, our approach has always been and will continue to be to offer a negotiating space, encourage the taking care of a situation that is not going to disappear.”
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have so far fled the predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August 25, when the crackdown on the Rohingya intensified in Rakhine State.
During the past three months, government troops, apart from raping, have been committing killings, arbitrary arrests, and mass arson of houses in hundreds of predominantly-Rohingya villages in the restive state.
Last week, a United Nations General Assembly committee called on Myanmar to end military operations that have “led to the systematic violation and abuse of human rights” of Rohingya.
The UN has already described the Rohingya as the most persecuted community in the world, calling the situation in Rakhine similar to “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Estimates as to how many Muslims have been killed vary from 1,000 to 3,000.
At the root of the crisis is the refusal by Myanmar to grant citizenship to the Muslim minority community.