Myan­mar says will take back 2k cit­i­zens from Bangladesh

No­bel lau­re­ates urge UN to in­ter­vene

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Myan­mar said yes­ter­day it will take back 2,415 cit­i­zens from Bangladesh, only a tiny frac­tion of the 300,000 peo­ple who Bangladesh says are Myan­mar cit­i­zens tak­ing refuge there and should go home. Ten­sion has been ris­ing be­tween the neigh­bors over Myan­mar’s treat­ment of eth­nic mi­nor­ity Ro­hingya Mus­lims, about 50,000 of whom Bangladesh says have fled there since the Myan­mar army launched a crack­down on its side of their border in Oc­to­ber.

Myan­mar has for decades said Ro­hingyas are il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh and it has de­clined to grant them cit­i­zen­ship. Bangladesh says the Ro­hingyas are Myan­mar cit­i­zens and it has re­fused to grant refugee sta­tus to those who have fled there, many from com­mu­nal vi­o­lence and Myan­mar army crack­downs over the past decades.

“There are only 2,415 Myan­mar cit­i­zens, ac­cord­ing to our data,” Kyaw Zaya, di­rec­tor gen­eral of Myan­mar’s Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs, told Reuters, re­fer­ring to the num­ber of Myan­mar cit­i­zens in Bangladesh. “We al­ways stand with our num­ber,” he said, adding he had “no idea” about the Bangladesh fig­ure of 300,000.

He said the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment had a plan to take back the 2,415 in 2017. Bangladesh had ear­lier sum­moned the Myan­mar am­bas­sador in Dhaka to de­mand the “early repa­tri­a­tion of all Myan­mar cit­i­zens from Bangladesh,” its for­eign af­fairs min­istry said in a state­ment, giv­ing the fig­ure of 300,000. Se­cu­rity has de­te­ri­o­rated sharply in Myan­mar’s north­west­ern Rakhine State, home to many Ro­hingyas, since at­tacks on se­cu­rity posts near the border with Bangladesh on Oct. 9 in which nine po­lice of­fi­cers were killed.

The gov­ern­ment of pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist Myan­mar has blamed mil­i­tants with links to Is­lamists over­seas for the at­tacks and poured troops into the re­gion. Rights groups and res­i­dents say wide­spread abuses have oc­curred dur­ing the Myan­mar mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion over the weeks since then. Myan­mar has de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing many of the re­ports of abuses are fab­ri­cated, and it in­sists the strife in Rakhine State is an in­ter­nal mat­ter.

While Bangladesh says 50,000 peo­ple have fled there since Oc­to­ber, the United Na­tions says the num­ber is 34,000. The vi­o­lence in Rakhine State has be­come the big­gest chal­lenge fac­ing Aung San Suu Kyi’s gov­ern­ment and has sparked in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism that the No­bel Peace Prize win­ner has done too lit­tle to help the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity. Bangladesh has asked Myan­mar to “ur­gently ad­dress the ‘root cause’ of the problem” and said it was ready to “dis­cuss process and modal­i­ties of repa­tri­a­tion with Myan­mar”. Adding to the ten­sion, this week Bangladesh’s border force ac­cused the Myan­mar navy of open­ing fire on a fish­ing boat in the Bay of Ben­gal.

‘End the hu­man cri­sis’

Mean­while, more than a dozen No­bel lau­re­ates on Thurs­day urged the United Na­tions to “end the hu­man cri­sis” of Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity group, whose mem­bers have been flee­ing to Bangladesh to es­cape a bloody mil­i­tary crack­down.

In an open let­ter ad­dressed to the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, 23 No­bel lau­re­ates, politi­cians, phi­lan­thropists and ac­tivists said “a hu­man tragedy amount­ing to eth­nic cleans­ing and crimes against hu­man­ity is un­fold­ing in Myan­mar.” They also crit­i­cized the coun­try’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi-her­self a No­bel Peace Prize win­ner-for what they called a lack of ini­tia­tive to pro­tect the Ro­hingyas. “We are frus­trated that she has not taken any ini­tia­tive to en­sure full and equal cit­i­zen­ship rights of the Ro­hingyas,” the group wrote. — Agen­cies

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