SITTWE, Rakhine State—Of the 26 people who voluntarily returned to Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township from Bangladesh on Wednesday, authorities arrested and are investigating one person on suspicion of being a member of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
U Soe Aung, the district administrator of Maungdaw district, Rakhine State, said the 26 people voluntarily returned to Maungdaw through Taungpyo Letwei.
He said, “26 people from three families entered Myanmar. We scrutinized them and found that one had a case opened against them under the Counterterrorism Law. So we detained the person. But we helped the others by giving them the necessary support to return.”
The government has released details of the suspects in a series of coordinated attacks launched by ARSA in Maungdaw in 2017, including their pictures and names. U Soe Aung said officials have been checking all the voluntary returnees against the data they have, in accordance with the law and regulations.
So far 270 people have voluntarily returned, independently of the bilateral agreement procedures established between Myanmar and Bangladesh. They either use boats or just walk cross the border.
Local authorities said the returnees are given humanitarian and rehabilitation support as outlined by the Office of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine (UEHRD). They are being rehabilitated in the villages where their relatives live.
For official returnees, the government has opened two reception centers for returnees by road in Taungpyo Letwei and by boat in Nga Khura, since early 2018, but no one has officially returned under the bilateral agreement. Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed that the repatriation program will adhere to the terms of the bilateral agreement signed between the two countries in Nov. 23, 2017.
Following the coordinated attacks by ARSA against Myanmar security forces on Aug. 25, 2017, local members of the Rakhine, Mro, Daingnet, Khami and Hindu communities fled their homes toward Sittwe and other parts of Rakhine State, while more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled into neighboring Bangladesh.
In August, the Myanmar government said it had cleared 3,450 Rohingya for return, and that the repatriation effort would start on Aug. 22. No one returned on that date, however.
Even those residing near Taungpyo Letwei on the border have yet to return. More than 400 Hindus are also taking shelter in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps, but are still not able to return.
Displaced Muslims now taking shelter in Bangladesh have demanded to be able to return in dignity, to be recognized as citizens, to be allowed to resettle in their former places of residence, and freedom of movement.
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