Myanmar has requested Bangladesh to extradite 1,300 members of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), claiming it has information that those members were attempting to disrupt the repatriation of the Rohingyas.
"We heard that these members are attempting to disrupt the repatriation process. We also have photographic evidence of this," U Myint Thu, permanent secretary of Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Myanmar said a list of the ARSA members was handed over to Bangladesh during the 4th Myanmar-Bangladesh Central-Level Meeting on Border Security and Law Enforcement Cooperation on November 14 last year.
The Bangladesh side also confirmed of doing its bit, said the statement posted by Myanmar's Ministry of Information on its website following the first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) held in Naypyitaw on January 15 and 16.
Contacted, an official from the Bangladesh said Myanmar indeed raised the issue in the meeting. "Bangladesh is looking into it."
"At the meeting, we told the Myanmar side that no terrorist will be allowed to use the land of Bangladesh," the official said preferring anonymity.
The development comes when Bangladesh agreed to a physical arrangement on repatriating the Rohingya in two years beginning on January 23 amid global concerns over the safety of the returnees in Rakhine.
Myanmar accused ARSA of attacking police and army posts on August 25 last year and launched a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya, which forced over 655,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh since then.
Doctors without Borders said more than 6,700 Rohingya, including at least 730 children under five, were killed in the first month of the crackdown.
UN and the US termed the violence as ethnic cleansing, while rights bodies defined it as genocide.
Amid global outcry, Myanmar signed a repatriation deal on November 23 that led the formation of the JWG for implementation of the repatriation of the Rohingyas subject to verification.
UN CHIEF CONCERNED
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday expressed concerns after Myanmar and Bangladesh reached a deal on the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas that sidelined the UN refugee agency.
"We believe it would be very important to have UNHCR fully involved in the operation to guarantee that the operation abides by international standards," Guterres told a press conference at UN headquarters, AFP reports.
Guterres, who served as UN high commissioner for refugees for 10 years, said the UN refugee agency was consulted about the agreement but is not a party to the deal as is usually the case for such repatriation plans.
Guterres said it was essential that the returns be voluntary and that the Rohingyas are allowed to return to their original homes -- not to camps.
"The worst would be to move these people from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar," said Guterres who spoke to journalists after presenting his priorities for 2018 to the General Assembly.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque yesterday said Myanmar was still "hesitant" about involvement of UNHCR or other UN mandated organisations in the repatriation process, reports BSS.
"But, the Myanmar side said that they will look into the matter . . . it is not UNHCR, Myanmar may consider involvement of ICRC or other organisations in the process," he told a group of reporters at the foreign ministry.