The Irrawaddy

USDP to ‘Monitor’ Rohingya Refugee Verification Process

The USDP press conference on Monday. (Photo: Thet Tun Naing/The Irrawaddy)

YANGON — Myanmar’s opposition party the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said it would monitor the government’s plan to change some of the criteria in the verification process of Rohingya refugees laid down in a 1993 agreement between the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments.

“We are monitoring which points in the existing agreement the two governments would discuss, which points would be added and which points would be scrapped,” said USDP central executive committee member U Wunna Maung Lwin at the party’s press conference on Monday.

Last week, Myanmar’s home affairs minister Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe and his Bangladeshi counterpart Asaduzzaman Khan met in the administrative capital Naypyitaw to discuss the repatriation of refugees to Myanmar.

Following the meeting, Union minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, U Thein Swe, said the two governments would amend some of the provisions in the 1993 agreement.

The USDP has called on the government to listen to the voices of Arakanese locals and local organizations in amending the agreement, saying that it would make legal responses to any amendment unacceptable to citizens.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, when militant attacks on police outposts in Rakhine’s Maungdaw Township prompted clearance operations by the Myanmar Army. Many of the refugees bring testimonies of indiscriminate killings, rape and arson by security forces and local Arakanese.

The UN has called the campaign ethnic cleansing and there has been mounting international pressure on Myanmar to take back refugees.

The home affairs ministers during their meeting in Naypyitaw agreed on 10 points concerning border security and cooperation between the two countries. They also settled to finalize an agreement on the repatriation of refugees.

However, Bangladesh-based Dhaka Tribune quoted the Bangladeshi foreign minister as saying that Bangladesh did not get the expected response from the Myanmar government regarding repatriation at the meeting.

U Wunna Maung Lwin said the Myanmar government should be “particularly careful of facts that can be harmful to the sovereignty and national interests” of Myanmar during bilateral talks on the verification process.

“In addition, the government should openly inform the public about discussions,” he said.

Though the home affairs ministers agreed to halt the mass exodus of refugees last week, many Rohingya are still gathering at the border. On Oct. 29, 426 people left for Bangladesh in 14 vessels, according to a home affairs ministry statement.

At the meeting, Myanmar also handed over a list of suspects reportedly involved in the Aug. 25 attacks who fled to Bangladesh and requested the authorities there to investigate and return them to Myanmar.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.