Bangladesh, Myanmar agree on 2-year Rohingya resettlement plan

Posted January 20, 2018

Seven ethnic Rakhine Buddhists died after Myanmar police opened fire on a crowd trying to seize a government office, officials said Wednesday, in fresh violence in a febrile state already scarred by ethnic and religious hatred.

Tuesday's meeting at Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw was the first by a joint working group set up to hammer out the details of the November repatriation agreement.

"The agreement stigmatizes the Rohingya people as would-be terrorists and includes unrealistic demands that these people, who fled for their lives with no possessions, show proof of residency to the very government that denied them of their citizenship, making it hard for them to believe that they will be protected upon returning home".

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The UN refugee agency said it is not involved in the process but is willing to play a "constructive role" in the process if allowed, specifically in registering the refugees and helping determining whether they are returning to Burma voluntarily.

The agreement did not specify when the process would begin but said Myanmar would provide temporary shelter for those returning and later build houses for them.

The UN and rights groups have urged the Burmese government to ensure the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees.

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The Rohingya, described by the United Nations as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012. Our experiences on the ground tell us that it is unlikely that Rohingya refugees will leave camps in Bangladesh if they face uncertainty about whether they or their families will be subjected to violence, abuse, and rape back in Myanmar.

Tensions in Rakhine have risen since a sweeping Myanmar army operation in August inflamed communal tension and triggered an exodus of over 650,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.

Rakhine State government secretary Tin Maung Swe told RFA the incident occurred at the town's government office.

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State-run media in Myanmar reported on Monday that a camp is being prepared that can accommodate about 30,000 people in 625 buildings, and that at least 100 buildings will be completed by the end of the month. "In Myanmar, Rohingyas have been the victims of ethnic cleansing at the hands of Myanmar's security forces and also local vigilantes".