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12:00 AM, July 08, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:49 AM, July 08, 2019

Rohingya Repatriation: Malaysia to work with Bangladesh

Its foreign minister promises to help ensure accountability for persecutions in Rakhine

Malaysia said it would work together with Bangladesh to ensure quick repatriation of the Rohingya as well as accountability for the persecutions committed against the Muslim minority group in Myanmar.

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, who held a meeting with Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at the state guest house, Padma, yesterday evening made the assurance.

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“He [Saifuddin] said Malaysia would work together with us in repatriation of the Rohingyas and on the question of accountability,” Momen told reporters after the meeting.

The Malaysian minister arrived in Bangladesh on a three-day visit. He visited the Rohingya camps in Kutupalong and a Malaysian-run field hospital for the refugees there.

Saifuddin told reporters that Malaysia would ask Asean Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) to prepare a comprehensive report on the preparedness of the Myanmar government for the repatriation of the Rohingyas by the end of this year.

A recent report of AHA was seriously criticised as it had no input from the refugees and had almost entirely disregarded the Myanmar government’s atrocities that led to mass displacement of the Rohingyas. It did not even use the term “Rohingya”, denying the group’s self-identity.

said Malaysia too was critical of the report and that it would ask AHA to prepare another report incorporating opinions of the Rohingyas.

“We both agreed that the repatriation of the Rohingya should occur as soon as possible,” he said.

Malaysia, as a member of Asean, would convince Myanmar in this regard and facilitate the repatriation.

“We are trying our level best to convince Asean and Myanmar,” Saifuddin said.

About one million Rohingyas, including the 741,000 who fled military atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August, 2017, live in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, putting huge economic and environmental pressure on Bangladesh.

Saifuddin said, “They [the Rohingyas] want to go back to Myanmar, but they want it to be safe and dignified.”

The two ministers talked about reopening the Malaysian labour market for Bangladeshis. The market has been suspended since last September following allegations of monopoly and charging high recruitment fees by a syndicate of 10 Bangladeshi recruiting agencies and their lobbyists in Kuala Lumpur.

“We are working to improve the recruitment plan and salaries,” Saifuddin said, thanking the Bangladeshi workers for their hard work in the Southeast Asian country, home to some eight lakh Bangladeshis.

Minister Momen said Malaysia was preparing a comprehensive plan for labour recruitment from Bangladesh.

“We hope it will be open by August,” he said without elaborating.

He said the Malaysian prime minister might visit Bangladesh towards the end of the year or early next year.

The ministers also talked about a possible free-trade agreement between Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Bangladesh and Malaysia had substantial trade and investment ties with the 2018 two-way trade valued at $2.37 billion, an increase of 35.4 percent from $1.75 billion in 2017, according to Malaysian foreign ministry.

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