05:51 PM, August 11, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:04 PM, August 11, 2018
Repatriation of Rohingyas
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali visits Maungdaw Township in Myanmar’s Rakhine state
Star Online Report
A Bangladesh delegation led by Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali today visited the villages around Maungdaw Township of Rakhine state to see the progress of repatriation process for Rohingyas including housing and other facilities for the returnees.
More than 720,000 Rohingyas from Rakhine state have taken shelter in Bangladesh since August 25 last year to escape a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar.
Ali is leading a 15-member high power delegation for a four-day visit to Myanmar for talk with Myanmar government leaders as well as to see for themselves whether conducive environment has been created in Rakhine for the safe return of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas.
Diplomatic sources in Yangoon told The Daily Star that apart from the foreign minister, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque and few other members of the delegation were allowed to visit the Maungdaw Township.
Even the Bangladesh Ambassador in Myanmar Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury was not able to accompany the foreign minister because of accommodation constrains in helicopter.
Myanmar’s Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister Win Myat Aye was also with the Bangladesh delegation. The ambassador told The Daily Star that the delegation members left Sittwe for Maungdaw at noon and returned to Sittwe at 5:00pm (BST).
“The minister just arrived in Sittwe and we are now on way to Yangoon from where we will issue a press statement,” the Bangladesh envoy said. Yesterday, Myanmar agreed to speed up the process of repatriating the forcibly displaced Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape persecution.
The development came at a ministerial meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Tint Swe in Naypyidaw. Though the two sides reiterated their commitment to closer consultation in resolving the crisis, they could neither reach any concrete decision nor set any date for starting the repatriation.
They reviewed the preparations for the return of the refugees, and also agreed to establish a hotline between the foreign ministers of the two countries to facilitate further discussions. A diplomatic source in Dhaka told this newspaper that the issues raised at yesterday’s meeting had already been discussed in the past, and there was no indication that Myanmar would expedite the repatriation process.
Later, Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office posted a press release on its official Facebook page, outlining the issues discussed at the meeting. However, Bangladesh foreign ministry didn’t issue any statement as of 11:00pm yesterday.
The two countries discussed the implementation of the bilateral agreement — the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State — signed on November 23 last year. They agreed on eight points, including one on intensifying cooperation on counter-terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking through exchange of intelligence, collaboration between border guard officials and coordinated border patrols.
The two sides reached a consensus on quick repatriation of the Rohingyas staying along the international border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, in particular the area between the international border and the fence put up on Myanmar territory.
As per last year’s agreement, Myanmar has built two reception centres and a transit camp, according to the press release issued by Myanmar State Counsellor’s Office. Bangladesh has confirmed progress on the five transit camps; one is complete, another is under construction, and three are yet to be built, it mentioned.
Both parties agreed that the repatriation of the Rohingyas will be done in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner, and verification forms are to be distributed among them. Signatures, fingerprints, and photo IDs are to be completed when the refugees fill out the forms by themselves. This needs to be done to indicate voluntary return and assist with Myanmar’s verification process, it added.