More than half a million Rohingya have fled from the region to Bangladesh in just over a month, the largest refugee crisis to hit Asia in decades.
YANGON, BURMA—Burma authorities took foreign diplomats and United Nations representatives on a tour Monday of conflict-torn northern Rakhine state, where a security crackdown has led to an exodus of more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims.
Three groups of diplomats were taken to three different areas, said Ye Htut, district administrator of Maungdaw in Rakhine. He did not provide details on the diplomats’ nationalities.
Burma has come under international criticism for barring aid groups, journalists and other outsiders from independently travelling to the region to see the situation there. A previous guided visit for diplomats scheduled for last week was abruptly cancelled.
Bangladesh to set up separate shelters for 6,000 Rohingya children from Burma
Burma Foreign Minister Kyaw Tin, left, shakes hands with his Bangladeshi counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali before their meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Monday. A.H. Mahmud Ali said that Burma “has made proposals for taking back Rohingya refugees.”
More than half a million Rohingya have fled from the region to Bangladesh in just over a month, the largest refugee crisis to hit Asia in decades. The current exodus is in addition to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled prior violence in Burma, where the Muslim ethnic group has faced decades of persecution and discrimination in the Buddhist-majority nation.
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Bangladesh’s foreign minister said Monday that Burma “has made proposals for taking back Rohingya refugees.”
A.H. Mahmud Ali made the remarks after meeting in Bangladesh’s capital with a Burma delegation led by Kyaw Tint Swe, a minister in the State Counsellor’s Office.
Our correspondent reports from a sprawling makeshift city that houses hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people, driven from their homes by Burma’s military. (The New York Times)
Ali told reporters that the counties had agreed to form a joint working group to start work on repatriation.
“Both countries want to settle the issue peacefully,” he said.
It was unclear whether Burma would place restrictions on which refugees would be allowed to return home. Most Rohingya have been denied citizenship in Burma, although many families have lived in the country for generations.
The Burma delegation did not speak to the media.
“I see today’s development very positively, but we know Myanmar’s (Burma’s) previous behaviour when it comes to Rohingya and their repatriation,” said Delwar Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University. “Myanmar did not keep their word in the past, they stopped co-operating with Bangladesh for their repatriation.”
Food distribution in the vastly overcrowded settlements is still ad hoc and uncoordinated, the UN says, more than a month after refugees began pouring into southern Bangladesh to escape ethnic bloodshed in Burma.
Food distribution in the vastly overcrowded settlements is still ad hoc and uncoordinated, the UN says, more than a month after refugees began pouring into southern Bangladesh to escape ethnic bloodshed in Burma. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
The latest violence began when a Rohingya insurgent group launched deadly attacks on security posts Aug. 25, prompting Burma’s military to launch “clearance operations.” Those fleeing have described indiscriminate attacks by security forces and Buddhist mobs. The government has blamed the Rohingya, saying they set fire to their own homes, but the UN and others accuse it of ethnic cleansing.
Local officials in Rakhine said Monday’s tour includes meetings with relatives of victims allegedly killed by militants during violence against Hindu, Mro and Daignets minority communities in Maungdaw township. In the morning, the diplomats were taken to Anaut Pyin village of Rathedaung township, a community of Rohingya Muslims who have not fled, said local police officer Moe Zaw.