Myanmar officials today visited crammed Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar visibly in their effort to start a process to take back tens of thousands of these forcibly displaced people, a day after Naypyidaw agreed to begin their repatriation by mid November.
Witnesses said 12 Myanmar officials came to Cox’s Bazar and met the Rohingya community leaders at their largest makeshift camp at Kutupalang after reaching the deal with Bangladesh authorities in Dhaka on the repatriation schedule in line with an earlier agreed modality.
Bangladeshi officials said they so far provided Myanmar a list of over 32,000 Rohingyas in two phases and furnished the latest list of 24,000 in yesterday’s third Joint Working Group meeting while Myanmar said they by now verified 5,000 of them.
Bangladeshi and Myanmar officials today separately said Naypyidaw would return initially 2,200 in the first batch when the repatriation would begin in two weeks.
“We are looking forward to starting the repatriation by mid-November,” Bangladesh’s foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told newsmen yesterday after the talks in Dhaka when Myanmar’s permanent secretary of foreign affairs Myint Thu said both sides agreed to a “very concrete” plan to start the process next month.
“We have shown our political will, flexibility and accommodation in order to commence the repatriation at the earliest possible date,” Thu told reporters.
Myanmar earlier announced a large-scale repatriation plan in November 2017 but Dhaka alleged the country took little steps to keep their promise.
A Bangladeshi official familiar with the meeting in Cox’s Bazar said the Myanmar delegation handed the Rohingyas over a pamphlet encouraging them to accept verification cards called NVC saying it would guarantee their “socio-economic development” once they returned their homeland in Rakhine state.
According to the pamphlets the NVCs would pave ways for them to be “Myanmar citizens” while the Rohingya leaders raised some demands to Myanmar officials for ensuring their safety and rights on return to their own country.
The Myanmar foreign secretary yesterday, however, told journalists that his government put in place several measures to ensure a secured environment for Rohingyas on their return.
More than 700,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh from Rakhine since August last year when Myanmar launched there a brutal military crackdown, dubbed by UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” by international rights watchdogs, sparking a global uproar.
UN investigators said Myanmar’s top military officials should be prosecuted for genocide but the country has rejected the calls, insisting it was defending itself against armed fighters.
Myanmar, however, said it built camps near the border to receive them.
Bangladesh, which had been extending refuge to another 300,000 Rohingyas ahead of the fresh exodus since last year, demanded mounting UN and global pressures on Myanmar for their safe and dignified return and security once they returned home.