Myanmar blames Bangladesh for delaying Rohingya repatriation after allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’
Myanmar says Rohingya will have to prove prior residence in Rakhine in order to return – a requirement complicated by the lack of documentation among a group that has been stripped of citizenship
Myanmar on Wednesday accused Bangladesh of delaying the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims who have fled Rakhine state since August, as conditions worsen for the stateless minority penned into squalid refugee camps.
More than 600,000 members of the Muslim minority have fled a brutal army crackdown in mainly Buddhist Myanmar over the past two months.
After weeks of intense global pressure and UN accusations of ethnic cleansing, Myanmar vowed to take back Rohingya who meet “verification” standards.
But the criteria remains vague, raising fears it will be used to restrict the number of returnees.
On Wednesday, Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay pointed the finger at Dhaka for allegedly delaying the repatriation.
“The Myanmar government already declared we are ready to receive [the refugees] at any time … but the Bangladeshi government is still considering the agreement between the two countries,” he said.
Dhaka has yet to send an official list of the Rohingya who have fled since August 25, he added.
“We have already asked the Bangladeshi side to give this to us. After that we can verify the amount of how many people have fled.”
The spokesman declined to elaborate on comments he made to the local press linking the delay to US$400 million in aid which Dhaka had received to expand housing for Rohingya.
“Currently they have got nearly US$400 million. Over their receipt of this amount, we are now afraid of [them] delaying the programme of deporting the refugees,” he was quoted as saying.
Myanmar says Rohingya will have to prove prior residence in Rakhine in order to return – a requirement complicated by the lack of documentation among a group that has been stripped of citizenship.
The government has previously only issued ID cards to Rohingya willing to identify as “Bengalis” – a name that brands them as foreigners.
Repatriation will also be complicated by the scale of destruction in Rakhine, where hundreds of Rohingya villages have been reduced to ash, allegedly by soldiers and Buddhist mobs.
Watching: What’s driving Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis?
Relief workers say some refugees have expressed reluctance to return if it would mean living in a camp-like settlement or being barred from the land they had before.
Meanwhile, Myanmar authorities have begun a new drive to issue National Verification cards inside Rakhine, where a dwindling number of Rohingya have stayed on despite severe food shortages and communal tensions.
Those who sign up are rewarded with food and mosquito nets, reported the Global New Light of Myanmar.
Myanmar has steadfastly denied charges of ethnic cleansing, instead blaming the violence on Rohingya militants.
The militants staged deadly attacks on police posts on August 25, prompting a ferocious army backlash against Rohingya settlements.