Union Minister to Tour Refugee Camps on Visit to Bangladesh

By San Yamin Aung 10 April 2018

YANGON— Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement U Win Myat Aye will inspect Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh during a two-day official trip, the first such visit from a senior member of the Union government.

“I will meet directly with those in the camps. I heard they are not receiving the truth about what we are doing. So I will meet them and tell them what we have done and are doing,” U Win Myat Aye said.

The minister, who is also the head of the government’s Implementation Committee for Recommendations on Rakhine State and deputy head of the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine, said the visit was proposed by the Myanmar side to discuss the delayed repatriation process with Bangladeshi officials.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to begin the repatriation on Jan. 23. But as of today, not a single refugee has been returned.

U Win Myat Aye said Myanmar had approved about 750 refugees from a list of more than 8,000 that Bangladesh provided in February for Myanmar to check their backgrounds prior to their return.

“We will discuss how we can start the repatriation immediately. It will be quick if the process is carried out as per the bilateral agreement,” U Win Myat Aye said.

“If the negotiations with Bangladesh go well, the repatriation can start immediately,” he added.

Despite the government’s repeated claim that it is ready to start taking back some of the almost 700,000 Rohingya who have fled the country, the UN’s assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, Ursula Mueller, said the country is not ready to handle the return of the refugees, after completing a six-day visit to Myanmar earlier this week.

U Win Myat Aye said he did not want to respond to her comments.

“Only with cooperation with what we are doing will the repatriation succeed. But things that could cause hesitation are not good. I think cooperation is more important,” he said.

Other members from the Union Enterprise, interfaith leaders and officials will also join the team.