Will Myanmar take back Rohingya refugees? Bangladesh optimistic


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As Bangladesh reels under the massive influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence in Rakhine state, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali said that Myanmar has made a proposal to take back about half a million refugees. His remarks came after his meeting in Dhaka with a Myanmar delegation headed by Kyaw Tint Swe, a minister in State Counsellor’s office.

“The two sides have agreed to a proposal to set up a joint working group to coordinate the repatriation process,” Mr. Ali said. However, details of the process have not been disclosed and there is no official word from the Myanmar establishment arousing scepticism regarding the sincerity of such a proposal.

The talks came in the wake of three groups of foreign diplomats and UN officials being taken on a guided tour of the violence ridden Rakhine state by the Myanmar authorities. The clampdown following the attack on security forces on August 25 has kept Rakhine out of reach of aid groups, journalists or other outsiders from independently taking stock of the situation. The one-day visit involved meeting with relatives of victims belonging to Hindu, Mro and Daignets minority communities in Maungdaw township and the Rohingya residing in AnautPyin village of Rathedaung township.

Myanmar authorities came under the scanner after human rights groups reported the brutal military crackdown on the persecuted Muslim minority community and the UN called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. The strategic value of Rakhine where states like India and China have invested in infrastructural projects has made the issue a humanitarian versus realpolitik dilemma in diplomacy. More than 300,000 Rohingya have already fled to Bangladesh imposing severe strains on its economy. With anti-Rohingya sentiments running high in the Buddhist majority country it is to be seen if and how Myanmar is able to rehabilitate this group within its borders.