Bangladesh tells Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees

Dhaka seeks resolution of crisis as tens of thousands flee crackdown in Rakhine state

File photo of a banner held by demonstrators during a protest against what they say is the crackdown on ethnic Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. PHOTO: REUTERS

DHAKA • Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked Myanmar to take back tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled a military crackdown in the Buddhist-majority nation's Rakhine state, an official said.

According to the United Nations, at least 65,000 people belonging to the Muslim minority have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar - a third of them over the past week - since a military operation was launched in October last year, following attacks on police posts.

The figure marks a sharp escalation in the number of Rohingya fleeing a military campaign, which rights groups say has been marred by abuses so severe they could amount to crimes against humanity.

The sudden influx has put enormous strain on impoverished Bangladesh, with Dhaka under pressure to open its border to the refugees. But it has instead reinforced its border posts and deployed its coast guard to prevent fresh arrivals.

On Wednesday, Ms Hasina called for a resolution to the crisis during a meeting in Dhaka with Myanmar Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Kyaw Tin.

Said Ms Hasina's spokesman Ihsanul Karim: "She said Myanmar should take back the Rohingya who migrated to Bangladesh."

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali also held talks on Wednesday in Dhaka with a special envoy of de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He told reporters yesterday: "The special envoy has been informed that the recent arrival of a huge number of Myanmar nationals and the long and illegal stay of approximately 300,000 unregistered Myanmar nationals have disrupted stability and economic development in the very important region of Chittagong.

"Bangladesh has demanded quick restoration of the normal situation in Rakhine state, so that Myanmar nationals who have taken shelter in Bangladesh can quickly go back home with full security and safety to their livelihood."

Rohingya refugees have spoken of rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar's army or police. Their stories have raised global alarm and galvanised protests against Ms Suu Kyi, who has been accused of not doing enough to help the Rohingya.

Myanmar's government has said the claims of abuse are fabricated and launched a special commission to investigate the allegations.

Last week, the commission presented its interim report, denying accusations of "genocide and religious persecution" and saying there was insufficient evidence that troops had been committing rape.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2017, with the headline Bangladesh tells Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees. Subscribe