The Irrawaddy

Myanmar Says Over 1,200 Refugees to Return from Bangladesh Next Week

Workers erect shelters at temporary refugee camp in Nga Khu Ya village, in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township, earlier this month.

YANGON — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday announced that more than 1,200 refugees in Bangladesh are set to return to Myanmar next week, the first batch to be repatriated since a military crackdown in Rakhine State drove hundred of thousands of mostly Rohingya out of the country.

It announced the news in a statement at the end of a two-day meeting of a joint working group of government officials from both countries. The statement says Bangladesh will establish five transit camps along its border with Myanmar for the returnees.

The working group also signed off on “physical arrangements,” referring to the transportation and shelter to be provided the refugees making the journey home.

It working group has reviewed and approved repatriation applications from 750 Rohingya and 508 Hindus. Authorities will transport the refugees across the border both by river and over land to a reception center in northern Maungdaw’s Nga Khu Ya village.

The statement says Myanmar will set up its own transit camp in Hla Phoe Khaung village, also in northern Maungdaw, to receive returnees five days per week. Bangladesh has agreed to provide a list of returnees in advance to help Myanmar review their backgrounds.

Myanmar has also provided Bangladesh’s border guard force with the names of more than 1,000 suspected members of the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and asked for their extradition in line with the 1980 Agreement on Border Arrangements and Cooperation. The working group officials also discussed the possibility of further ARSA attacks, which could undermine the repatriation process.

More than 650,000 Rohingya fled northern Rakhine in the wake of a sweeping counteroffensive Myanmar army’s launched in response to ARSA’s attack on police and military outposts in the area in late August.

The UN has called the military’s response “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and repeatedly urged Myanmar’s authorities to allow a fact-finding mission to visit the area. Myanmar’s military has denied the allegation, and the government has refused to accept the mission. The government has also refused to let UN human rights envoy Yanghee Lee back into the country, claiming she was not impartial.