REFUGEES in Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh have issued a visiting senior politician from Burma (Myanmar) with a list of demands regarding the planned return of Rohingya Muslims to Rakhine State.
Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye visited the camp on Wednesday as part of a three-day trip to Bangladesh, where he met with dozens of refugees. They provided 13 demands regarding their repatriation, calling upon Naypyidaw to guarantee a dignified and safe return to their homes.
The UN has said more than 671,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Rakhine State into Cox’s Bazar in neighbouring Bangladesh since Aug 25 in response to so-called “clearing operations” by Burma’s Tatmadaw army.
The military and Buddhist vigilantes stand accused of mass killings, rape and arson in Muslim villages – violence that rights groups have characterised as ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and even genocide.
“The Rohingya people are peaceful and hard working,” said a statement handed to Win Myat Aye. “We have been given many different labels of Kala, Bengali, Illegal Immigrants and even terrorists. We are none of these, we are Rohingya Muslims and nationals of Myanmar.”
The refugees demanded that the Burmese government guarantee freedom of movement in Rakhine and the “right of Rohingya to return to our original land”, close camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and establish no more, and involve the UN refugee agency in their repatriation process.
In addition, they called upon the government to permit international media, humanitarian organisations and human rights observers access to Rakhine State.
According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, Burma has bulldozed at least 55 villages that were vacated during the violence. The government has established several reception centres to house returnees.
“Rohingya people have been forced out of Myanmar four times now,” continued the refugees’ letter. “In 1979, 1990, 2016, and 2017. We want to return when it is safe and sustainable.”
The UN’s Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs this month said that Burma was not ready for the return of Rohingya Muslims. Naypyidaw and Dhaka in January agreed that all refugees would be returned to Burma within two years, a deal that has to date stalled with none yet repatriated.
“They (Rohingyas) will be taken back by giving citizenship with proper dignity and respect,” said Win Myat Aye as quoted by Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star. He said the government was working to help Rohingya return to Burma.
“I have come to Bangladesh to witness their conditions,” he added.