Bangladesh is waiting for the goodwill of Myanmar to begin to take back its nationals who have fled violence in Rakhine State, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said on his return from Myanmar last night.
Talking to journalists at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, the minister said he called on Myanmar for an early repatriation of the Rohingya people.
Earlier yesterday, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi told Kamal that Myanmar started working to take back the Rohingyas.
The Myanmar de facto leader made the statement at a meeting with the home minister at her office in Naypyidaw yesterday, said Sharif Mahmud Apu, public relations officer of the home ministry.
“The Myanmar government has also started working to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission,” Sharif quoted Suu Kyi as telling the home minister.
The home minister was on a three-day visit to Myanmar to discuss various bilateral issues, including the Rohingya influx, which has been described as the fastest growing refuge crisis.
More than 600,000 Rohingyas crossed over into Bangladesh in an unprecedented influx triggered by a brutal military crackdown in Rakhine since August 25. This is in addition to around 300,000 refugees who came in several phases since 1992.
Suu Kyi's “assurance” came a day after the home minister met with his Myanmar counterpart Lt Gen Kyaw Swe when the two sides decided to form a joint working group by November 30 to start the repatriation process.
After that meeting on Wednesday, Tin Myint, permanent secretary of Myanmar's home ministry, told reporters that the two sides agreed “to halt the outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh,” according to Reuters.
He had also said the two countries agreed “to restore normalcy in Rakhine to enable displaced Myanmar residents to return from Bangladesh at the earliest opportunity”.
Sharif Mahmud, who is on the 15-member Bangladesh delegation, said the repatriation would be done on the basis of the recommendations by the Kofi Anan Commission and the five-point proposal by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the UN General Assembly.
However, it is not clear when the actual repatriation would start.
The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar daily, reported yesterday that Myanmar and Bangladesh on Tuesday agreed to cooperate to restore stability in restive Rakhine State but failed to reach an agreement over the repatriation of refugees.
“Bangladesh wants to repatriate as soon as possible. But we will go step by step and form a joint working group for repatriation,” the paper quoted U Kyaw Zeya, permanent secretary of Myanmar's foreign affairs ministry, as telling reporters.
Talking to The Daily Star, Sharif Mahmud said that during yesterday's meeting with Suu Kyi, Kamal invited the Myanmar leader to visit Bangladesh, to which she said she would pay the visit “at a convenient time for both the countries”.
The minister also informed her about Bangladesh's zero tolerance policy against terrorism and assured her that Dhaka would not allow any terrorists to stay on Bangladesh soil.
He also told the meeting that if those who entered Bangladesh were not quickly taken back, they might get involved in terrorism and then things would go out of control for both countries.
The minister also apprised Suu Kyi of the yaba smuggling from Myanmar and its frightening impact on Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi assured Kamal that her country would take steps to stop yaba smuggling, Sharif said.