YANGON — In response to Myanmar’s accusation that Bangladesh was delaying the Rohingya refugee repatriation process in order to get international aid money, a Bangladesh representation said the director-general of Myanmar’s State Counselor Office was “ill-informed” of the process.
More than 600,000 Muslims have fled northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh since Rohingya militant attacks on police outposts triggered military clearance operations in the region.
Myanmar has been preparing for the repatriation of those who fled the country, and discussions with the Bangladeshi government are underway.
Last month, both sides agreed to cooperate to restore stability in restive Rakhine State but failed to reach an agreement over the repatriation of refugees.
On Tuesday, U Zaw Htay, the director-general of the State Counselor Office, told media that Myanmar was ready to begin the repatriation process any time, based on the criteria of the 1993 agreement with Bangladesh that covered the return of Rohingya refugee to Myanmar.
“We are ready to start but the other side hasn’t agreed yet, and the process has been delayed,” he said, before linking the delay to hundreds of million dollars raised so far by the international community to help build refugee camps for the Rohingya on the Bangladeshi side.
“Currently they have got US$400 million. Over their receiving of this amount, we are now afraid of delays to the program of deporting the refugees,” he told media on Tuesday.
“They have got international subsidies. We are now afraid they would have another consideration as to repatriation,” he said.
Md. Reyad Hossain, the First Secretary of the Bangladeshi Embassy in Yangon, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that “it appears that U Zaw Htay is ill informed of the process.”
He explained that Bangladesh handed over a revised paper on the repatriation to the Minister for the State Counsellor Office U Kyaw Tint Swe in Dhaka on 2 October.
Myanmar responded on 20 October to the draft, which Bangladesh is now examining, he said.
In a meeting in Naypyitaw on Oct. 24, the countries’ home ministers agreed that an arrangement to bring back the Rohingya to Myanmar would be finalized within the next few weeks, which would lead to a Joint Working Group preparing the Term of Reference (TOR) for taking back the refugees.
“Hence, the process of consultation is on and it is wrong to blame any side at this stage,” said Md. Reyad Hossain.
Bangladesh had to seek international monetary assistance to meet the formidable humanitarian challenge created due to Myanmar’s action in the Rakhine State, said the first secretary.
He said Myanmar could expect this kind of monetary support and “much more” from the international community if it agreed to resettle and integrate the Rohingya into Myanmar society.
“This, however, depends upon Myanmar’s sincerity to find durable and inclusive solutions,” said the first secretary.