Myan­mar, Bangladesh sign pact on Ro­hingya refugees

The Mercury News Weekend - - NEWS -

BANGKOK » Myan­mar and Bangladesh signed an agree­ment on Thurs­day cov­er­ing the re­turn of Ro­hingya Mus­lims who fled across their mu­tual bor­der to es­cape vi­o­lence in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state.

Myan­mar an­nounced the agree­ment but pro­vided no de­tails on how many Ro­hingya refugees would be al­lowed to re­turn home. Bangladesh said the repa­tri­a­tions are to be­gin within two months.

More than 620,000 Ro­hingya have f led from Myan­mar into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when the army be­gan what it called “clear­ance op­er­a­tions” fol­low­ing an at­tack on po­lice posts by a group of Ro­hingya in­sur­gents. Refugees ar­riv­ing in Bangladesh said their homes were set on fire by sol­diers and Bud­dhist mobs, and some re­ported be­ing shot at by se­cu­rity forces.

The of­fice of Myan­mar civil­ian leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the agree- ment “on the re­turn of dis­placed per­sons fromRakhine state” was signed by Cabi­net of­fi­cials in Naypyitaw, Myan­mar’s capital. It said the pact fol­lows a for­mula set in a 1992 repa­tri­a­tion agree­ment signed by the two na­tions af­ter an ear­lier spasm of vi­o­lence. Un­der that agree­ment, Ro­hingya were re­quired to present res­i­dency doc­u­ments, which few have, be­fore be­ing al­lowed to re­turn to Myan­mar.

“We’re con­tin­u­ing our bi­lat­eral talks with Myan­mar so that these Myan­mar na­tion­als (Ro­hingya) could re­turn to their coun­try,” Bangladesh Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina was quoted as say­ing by theUnit­edNews of Bangladesh news agency. “It’s my call to Myan­mar to start tak­ing back soon their na­tion­als from Bangladesh.”

Ro­hingya at a refugee camp in Bangladesh ex­pressed deep doubts about the agree­ment.

“They burned our houses, they took our land and cows - will they give us these things back?” asked Ab­dul Hamid from Hoy­akong.

Ro­hingyaMus­lims have faced state-sup­ported dis­crim­i­na­tion in pre­dom­i­nantly Bud­dhist Myan­mar for decades. Though mem­bers of the eth­nic mi­nor­ity first ar­rived gen­er­a­tions ago, Ro­hingya were stripped of their ci­ti­zen­ship in 1982, deny­ing them al­most all rights and ren­der­ing them state­less. They can­not travel freely, prac­tice their reli­gion, or work as teach­ers or doc­tors, and they have lit­tle ac­cess to med­i­cal care, food or ed­u­ca­tion.

The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment has re­fused to ac­cept them as a mi­nor­ity group, and the state­ment is­sued Thurs­day by Suu Kyi’s of­fice did not use the term “Ro­hingya.”

The United States on Wed­nes­day de­clared the vi­o­lence against Ro­hingya to be “eth­nic cleans­ing,” and threat­ened penal­ties for Myan­mar mil­i­tary of­fi­cers in­volved in the crack­down.

BER­NAT AR­MANGUE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ro­hingya Mus­lim chil­dren eat ice cream at the Ku­tu­pa­long refugee camp, Bangladesh, on Nov. 2. Myan­mar and Bangladesh signed an agree­ment on Thurs­day cov­er­ing the re­turn of Ro­hingya Mus­lims who fled across their mu­tual bor­der to es­cape vi­o­lence in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state.

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