HUNDREDS of thousands of Rohingya refugees will start returning to their native state of Rakhine, Burma (Myanmar) barely a week after the United Nations warned of an ‘ongoing’ genocide against the Muslim minority.
The process of repatriating the refugees is slated to begin in about two weeks time after Bangladesh and Burmese government reached an agreement on Tuesday.
“We are looking forward to starting the repatriation by mid-November,” Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said, as quoted by the AFP.
“It is the first phase.”
Shahidul’s announcement came following talks in Dhaka between officials from both countries.
Myint Thu, Burma’s permanent secretary of foreign affairs who took part in the talks said both countries agreed to a “very concrete” plan to start the process in November.
“We have shown our political will, flexibility and accommodation in order to commence the repatriation at the earliest possible date,” he said.
The UN estimates some 10,000 Rohingya were killed since the Burmese government and security forces, known as the Tatmadaw, began its crackdown on insurgents in August last year in an offensive that saw 390 villages destroyed.
The conflict has also seen about 700,000 Rohingya flee to refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh and thousands more escaping to other Southeast Asian countries.
The Burmese government has often heralded returns of Rohingya families but rights groups say some may have not done so voluntarily.
The Rohingya ethnic group is one of the world’s most persecuted minorities as the Burmese government has denied them citizenship and access to basic needs like healthcare and freedom of movement.
Apart from mass killings, the crisis involved ostracisation of the population, birth prevention, and mass displacement in camps, Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Burma, said.
“It is an ongoing genocide,”
“We consider the genocide intent can be reasonably inferred.”