Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan discussed the repatriation of Rohingya refugees with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Nay Pyi Taw on Monday (Nov 5), a day after he visited refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
“Daw Suu updated me on the plans for repatriation, including ground preparations for the first batch of refugees who will return from Bangladesh to Myanmar,” said Dr Balakrishnan in a post on his Facebook page on Monday.
Both Dr Balakrishnan and Ms Suu Kyi agreed that the priority was to ensure that the displaced communities return in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner.
“Singapore and Asean will continue to support the efforts of Myanmar and Bangladesh to address this very difficult situation,” said Dr Balakrishnan.
Dr Balakrishnan had met with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina before his visit to Cox’s Bazar, as part of his two-day introductory trip to the South Asian country.
“The government and people of Bangladesh have been absolutely wonderful in providing humanitarian support for a million refugees under very difficult conditions,” he said on his Facebook page on Sunday (Nov 4).
“International agencies are also actively providing essential assistance. Singapore has contributed financial and humanitarian aid too,” he said.
More than 720,000 Rohingyas, a Muslim minority, have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since a military crackdown in August last year.
Together with another 200,000 refugees who had crossed the border earlier, they now live in cramped and squalid conditions in what has become the largest refugee camp in the world.
Almost all Rohingya lack citizenship, and many of their villages were burned down during the military operations.
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Noting that the situation is not sustainable, the minister said the refugees who he spoke to all wanted to return to Myanmar.
“Their prime concern is for their children’s future,” he said.
Officials from Bangladesh and Myanmar have said the repatriation process is expected to begin in mid-November.
Myanmar and Bangladesh are holding detailed discussions on the matter, said the minister.
“But the road ahead is long and arduous. Many details have to be sorted out first to ensure voluntary, safe, secure and dignified repatriation,” he said.