Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi today said her country was set to return Rohingyas as home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal met her a day after talks with his Burmese counterpart at Naypyidaw on the repatriation issue, officials said.
“Myanmar government has started works of repatriation of Rohingya people, who entered to Bangladesh illegally,” a Bangladesh home ministry official familiar with the talks quoted Suu Kyi as telling Khan in the Myanmar capital.
The Myanmar de’ facto leader, he said, assured Kamal of simultaneously starting the implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission report in line with demands of Bangladesh and the international community as over 600,000 Rohingyes fled to Bangladesh since August 25.
Home ministry’s information officer Sharif Mahmud Apu, who is accompanying the minister in Myanmar, said Kamal cautioned Suu Kyi that unless they were repatriated the Rohingyas could get involved in terroristic activities which would not be a good situation for either of the countries.
He, however, said, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared “zero tolerance” against any sort of terrorism and pledged not to allow them to stay on Bangladesh soil.
Kamal’s talks with the Myanmar State Counsellor came a day after Naypyidaw agreed to “to halt the outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh,” and “to form a joint working group” in a meeting with a high level Bangladesh delegation which he leads.
Myanmar’s home affairs minister lieutenant general Kyaw Swe led the meeting on Burmese side while the two countries also agreed to take steps to boost border security as relations between the neighbors have been strained by the continuing flow of refugees into Bangladesh.
In the yesterday’s meeting between the two home ministers, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed two agreements covering security and border cooperation.
“After joint working group, the verification, (the) two countries have agreed to arrange different steps so that these people can return to their homeland safely and honourably and in secure conditions,” bangladesh home ministry’s public security division secretary Mostafa Kamal Uddin earlier told a briefing in Naypyidaw.
A Myanmar official told foreign news agencies there that the two countries agreed “to restore normalcy in Rakhine to enable displaced Myanmar residents to return from Bangladesh at the earliest opportunity”.
Myanmar’s Home Ministry official Tin Myint, however, made a measured commitment, saying only that refugees would need to be scrutinised for proof of their roots in Rakhine state saying “we cannot say when we are going to receive (the refugees)”.
“We will accept after scrutinizing . . . we will check whether they really stayed in Maungdaw and Buthidaung,” he said, reiterating Myanmar’s earlier stance and referring to the hardest-hit districts in Rakhine that are now nearly empty of Rohingya residents.
UN and international aid agencies said feared the criteria could be difficult to be fulfilled by the Rohingyas who bolted from Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist extremists who drove them out with a massive campaign of arson, murder and rape.
“How someone could provide the proof of his birthplace when their entire household was burned down,” Bangladesh’s foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali earlier said.
Bangladesh, however, send the high level high level delegation to Myanmar for talks on Rohingya crisis as Dhaka sought sustained international pressures on Naypyidaw for taking back the forcibly displaced people amid their continued exodus to evade atrocities.
Kamal leads a 12-member delegation comprising chiefs of paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), coastguard, police and several senior officials.
Officials of both the countries said the talks were friendly but tensions are still high between the two countries as Dhaka accused the next-door neighbour of spearheading a violent depopulation campaign to oust entirely the ethnic minority Muslim Rohingyas branding them as so-called “Islamist terrorists”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week said Myanmar tried to provoke a war as the Rohingya crisis mounted in late August saying her government evaded it by “exercising restraints”.
But Kamal’s visit was planned last month when Suu Kyi sent to Dhaka a senior representative for talks amid mounting global outrage and agreed in principle to take back the victims of forced exodus.
Bangladesh’s foreign minister, however, earlier feared that the Myanmar proposal for Rohingya repatriation could be a tactic to defuse the mounting international pressure, which he said should be kept on to force Naypyidaw for returning its forcibly displaced nationals.