Myanmar refuses to set timeframe on repatriating the Rohingya

Myanmar has not given Bangladesh any timeframe to take back the Rohingya who fled their homeland in the face of a brutal military offensive in the Rakhine state.

A senior official in Naypyitaw has said that Bangladesh and Myanmar have discussed repatriation of the refugees but did not reach an agreement.

Myanmar refuses to set timeframe on repatriating the Rohingya

Both countries, however, have agreed to halt the mass exodus of Rohingya to Bangladesh and restore stability in Rakhine state to facilitate the repatriation.

Myanmar Foreign Ministry’s Permanent Secretary U Kyaw Zeya told reporters in Naypyitaw on Tuesday that they would go “step by step” on the repatriation issue although Dhaka wanted it to start as soon as possible, reports The Irrawaddy.

He said the neighbours would form a joint working group for repatriation.

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Myanmar Home Minister Lt Gen Kyaw Swe and his Bangladeshi counterpart Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal met on Tuesday. The two countries signed two agreements on security and border cooperation.

Home Ministry’s Permanent Secretary U Tint Myint said they were “yet to rebuild infrastructure and draw up resettlement plans” to take back the refugees.

He said the state leaders were handling the matter and that it was “difficult to predict” when the works would be complete.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar currently does not recognise the mainly Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority and forces many of them to live in apartheid-like condition.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August after Myanmar military launched a massive ‘clearance operation’ claiming it to be a response to insurgent attacks on security forces.

The UN has dubbed Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya ethnic cleansing and said the “systematic” operations were aimed at driving the Rohingya out of Myanmar and preventing them from returning home.

President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay said during the Dhaka visit of union minister for the State Counselor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe in October, Bangladesh and Myanmar had discussed principals agreed by the two countries in 1993.

Myanmar cabinet discussed a proposal made by Bangladesh at that time and forwarded the decision to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

But there was no “final discussion” on the matter in Tuesday’s meeting which mainly focused on cooperation, security and law enforcement issues, according to Irrawaddy.

Myanmar’s cross-border crime department’s Brig Gen Aung Htay Myint said they “did not discuss plans for refugees.”

He said they discussed the repatriation “to verify and accept back those who have settled in Myanmar and fled to Bangladesh after violence.”

It is unclear how the verification process would work.