Myanmar, Bangladesh sign deal to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees

Myanmar, Bangladesh sign deal to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees

Myanmar, Bangladesh sign deal to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees

Updated 24 November 2017, 5:55 AEDT

Myanmar says it is ready to take back hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled violence for neighbouring Bangladesh, but some refugees are wary of the Government's plans for them.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a memorandum of understanding for the return home of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled to the neighbouring country to escape an army crackdown, a senior Myanmar official says.

Key points:

  • Myanmar says process can start once paperwork is completed
  • Rohingya refugees express doubt over the deal
  • US has labelled operation against Rohingya population "ethnic cleansing"

"We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us," Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, told Reuters.

The official was referring to registration forms the Rohingya must complete with personal details before repatriation.

Information will include their previous address in Myanmar and a disclaimer that they are returning voluntarily, authorities said.

Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh were wary of the accord.

"I don't trust the Myanmar Government. My husband left three times and this is my second time to leave," said Nurasha, who came to Kutupalong camp two months ago.

"The Myanmar Government is always like this."

Sayed Hussein, 55, has been at Kutupalong camp for two months and said he would be willing to return if they had equal opportunities.

"We will go back if they don't harass us and if we can live life like the Buddhists and other ethnic minorities," he said.

Others said they would only return if certain demands were met.

"Our demands are that we are given citizenship. They also have to give us back our land," Salimullah said.

Human rights monitors have accused Myanmar's military of atrocities against the stateless Rohingya during so-called clearance operations following Rohingya militants' August 25 attacks on 30 police posts and an army base.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine state in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, mostly to neighbouring Bangladesh, since the crackdown, which followed the insurgent attacks.

The United States on Wednesday labelled the Myanmar military operation against the Rohingya population "ethnic cleansing", and threatened targeted sanctions against those responsible for what it described as "horrendous atrocities".

"I don't think that it will help to solve this problem," Russian ambassador to Myanmar Nikolay Listopadov said when asked about the US move.

"On the contrary, it can aggravate the situation, throw more fuel," he said, citing concern over how the Buddhist community in Rakhine would react to such a designation.

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday met with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali in Naypyitaw.

Mr Ali is making an official visit to Myanmar after attending the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers' meeting, at the invitation of the Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor.

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Reuters/AP