ASEAN humanitarian team visits Rakhine
Two officials of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management is currently on a three-day visit to northern Rakhine State.
OFFICIALS from the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) visited northern Rakhine State on Tuesday to check on the preparations by the Myanmar government for refugee repatriation.
Myanmar is a member of the 10-country regional grouping.
U Soe Aung, deputy minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, said the two officials were able to see for themselves the government’s preparations to receive the Muslim refugees, who have been living in cramped camps in Bangladesh since fleeing their homes amid renewed violence last year.
He added that they arrived in Myanmar on Friday and held three days of preliminary coordination meetings with officials from the ministry’s Disaster Management Department on the preparations for the repatriation.
“They want to help in receiving the returnees. However, the repatriation depends on Bangladesh. We are ready for the repatriation,” U Soe Aung said.
According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, while in northern Rakhine, the officials will visit Nga Khu Ya and Taung Pyo Lat Wae reception centres and the transit camp and temporary resettlement area in Hla Phoe Khaung.
During the 33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore earlier this month, the bloc’s chairman said in a statement that the leaders of the group support Myanmar’s repatriation process and welcomed the invitation it extended to the AHA Centre to send a team to identify possible areas of cooperation in Rakhine to facilitate the repatriation.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State in November 2017 and agreed to repatriate a first batch of over 2000 refugees on November 15. However, the refugees refused to return, saying they first wanted guarantees of security and citizenship rights.
According to U Win Myat Aye, chair of the Committee on Repatriation and Resettlement of Refugees from Rakhine State, said the repatriation might resume next year after Bangladesh’s general election.
He added that it needs to be carried out systematically by the Bangladesh government in line with the agreement.
Refugees from northern Rakhine State walk on a road at a makeshift camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in August.