Talks held to 'settle issues' on Rohingya repatriation

YANGON • Talks were held yesterday to "settle issues" over the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, Bangladeshi officials said, as doubts linger over how many of the 655,000 Rohingya who fled violence will return.

Under pressure, Myanmar has vowed to repatriate refugees driven into Bangladesh by an army crackdown last year if they can verify they belong in Rakhine state. But aid agencies question how many Rohingya will be able to prove their residence, given their hurried flight and complexity of their status in Myanmar.

Most Rohingya refugees approached in the Bangladeshi camps say they will not return to a state where their villages have been torched and where they allege atrocities by the army and ethnic Rakhine.

Officials from the two countries met in Naypyitaw yesterday to "settle issues" related to repatriation, two Bangladeshi officials said.

The two governments signed an agreement last November paving the way for repatriations from Jan 23.

The deal applies to Rohingya who fled Myanmar in two major outbreaks of violence since October 2016. It does not cover an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who were in Bangladesh prior to that date.

Last month, Bangladeshi officials said a list of 100,000 names was sent to Myanmar for the first round of repatriation. Myanmar has yet to publicly endorse the list or even confirm it has received the names.

But the country is on track for the Jan 23 deadline, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported yesterday, adding that building work is ongoing at the 50ha Hla Po Khaung "temporary camp" in Rakhine's Maungdaw district. Eventually, the site "will accommodate about 30,000 people in its 625 buildings" before they are resettled permanently.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2018, with the headline 'Talks held to 'settle issues' on Rohingya repatriation'. Print Edition | Subscribe