Myanmar, Bangladesh strike a deal for Rohingyas' return

Updated: Jan 23, 2018, 20:49 IST | Agencies

The step comes after weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal on Thursday paving the way for the possible repatriation of Rohingya Muslims, who have fled violence in Rakhine state, officials said, as global pressure mounts over the refugee crisis. More than 620,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh since August, running from a Myanmar military crackdown that Washington said this week clearly constitutes "ethnic cleansing". After weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Thursday following talks between Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Dhaka's Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali.

Rohingya refugee children wait for food at a distribution centre in Ukhia district on Thursday. Pic/AFP
Rohingya refugee children wait for food at a distribution centre in Ukhia district on Thursday. Pic/AFP

"Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed an MoU," Myint Kyaing, the permanent secretary of Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, confirmed. He said he was unauthorised to provide more details. Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay also tweeted that an "agreement on repatriation" had been signed, though he could not be reached by phone for further comment.

Bangladeshs Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali (L) shake hands with Myanmars civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Pic/AFP
Bangladesh's Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali (L) shake hands with Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Pic/AFP

In brief remarks to the press, Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Ali said, "This is a primary step. (They) will take back Rohingyas. Now we have to start working." But the scope of the repatriation – such as how many Rohingyas will be allowed back – and the timeline remain unclear. Rights groups have raised concerns about the process, including where the minority will be resettled and how their safety will be ensured in a country where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging.

6.2L Total number of Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh

US doubts China's move to solve crisis

The US has cast doubts over the Chinese assertion that both Bangladesh and Myanmar have endorsed its three-step plan to resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis. The three steps, include a ceasefire, repatriation of refugees and talks on a long-term solution.

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