Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bangladesh home minister to visit Myanmar Oct 23 to discuss Rohingya return

  • Senior Correspondent bdnews24.com
    Published: 2017-10-12 18:36:09 BdST

bdnews24

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal is going to Myanmar on Oct 23 on a three-day visit to take forward the discussion on the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees.

But his visit to violence-torn Rakhine State where a military crackdown has pushed over half a million Rohingyas into Bangladesh in a month is uncertain.

"Our main agenda in the discussions will be repatriation of the Rohingyas who have entered Bangladesh and stopping a recurrence of such events,” Kamal told reporters at his office on Thursday afternoon.

Besides the Rohingya crisis, he will discuss four bilateral issues that were agrred upon earlier, the minister said, informing the reporters about the date of the visit.

The two secretaries to his ministry, chiefs of police, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Coastguard, Department of Narcotics Control, among other top officials, will accompany him during the visit.

Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. File Photo

Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal. File Photo

Asked whether he plans to visit the areas where the Rohingyas are facing the atrocities of the Myanmar Army,  the home minister said, "If they permit." 

He expressed frustration over the absence of any discussion on the repatriation of the around 400,000 Rohingyas, who had fled decades of persecution in Myanmar before the latest exodus began.

"We are only speaking about repatriation of the newly arrived refugees," he said. 

The recently arrived Rohingyas are living in makeshift camps along the border near the previously set up refugee camps.

The home minister claimed the number of Rohingya refugees in Ukhia and Teknaf of Cox's Bazar was four times the residents of the areas.

He said the government will consider going ahead with its plan to relocate the Rohingya refugees to a remote shoal in Noakhali if the discussion on their repatriation prolonged.

Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar make their way through the rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Bangladesh. Reuters

Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar make their way through the rice field after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Bangladesh. Reuters

A Rohingya refugee child sleeps in a basket as others walk after crossing the border in Palang Khali. Reuters

A Rohingya refugee child sleeps in a basket as others walk after crossing the border in Palang Khali. Reuters

The Myanmar Army launched the crackdown following reported insurgent attacks on security forces on Aug 25. Thousands of Rohingyas are still fleeing the violence in Rakhine State to Bangladesh.

Dhaka has maintained from the very beginning that Naypyidaw has to take back its nationals.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar denies the Rohingya Muslims citizenship and calls them Bengalis.

Amid mounting international pressure, Myanmar's de facto leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi addressed parliament on Sept 19, when she said they were ready to take back 'verified refugees' in line with a deal signed in 1992.

Bangladesh had then said it would call the international community for a verification process supervised by the UN.

A man and a boy cast their shadows over the wall of a house at a Rohingya refugee camp near Cox's Bazar. Reuters

A man and a boy cast their shadows over the wall of a house at a Rohingya refugee camp near Cox's Bazar. Reuters

A Rohingya refugee boy stand outside their plastic tents at a refugee camp near Cox's Bazar. Reuters

A Rohingya refugee boy stand outside their plastic tents at a refugee camp near Cox's Bazar. Reuters

The first official talks between the countries since the latest exodus, which the UN dubs as the 'world's fastest-developing refugee crisis', was held on Oct 2 when Myanmar's Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe came to Dhaka.

Home Minister Kamal was part of the Bangladesh delegation led by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali during the talks.

Ali told the media after that meeting that they proposed signing a bilateral agreement for the repatriation and handed over a draft to Myanmar.

A week after the talks, the foreign minister told Dhaka-based foreign diplomats Myanmar was yet to respond to the draft of the agreement.

The following day, Ali said at a roundtable that Myanmar's proposal to take back the Rohingyas following the 1992 agreement might be a strategy to defuse the international pressure.

In 1992, Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement with the then Myanmar's military regime, following which 236,599 Rohingyas returned to their homeland. But another 2,415 were denied entry even after meeting the criteria in line with the arrangement.

Foreign Minister Ali told the diplomats on Oct 9 Bangladesh had proposed and drafted another agreement because the situation of 1992 and the current one were 'entirely different'.