Repatriation of Rohingyas: More talks, no timeframe yet
Myanmar yesterday agreed to speed up the process of repatriating the forcibly displaced Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh from Rakhine to escape persecution.
The development came at a ministerial meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Myanmar counterpart Kyaw Tint Swe in Naypyidaw.
Though the two sides reiterated their commitment to closer consultation in resolving the crisis, they could neither reach any concrete decision nor set any date for starting the repatriation.
They reviewed the preparations for the return of the refugees, and also agreed to establish a hotline between the foreign ministers of the two countries to facilitate further discussions.
A diplomatic source in Dhaka told this newspaper that the issues raised at yesterday's meeting had already been discussed in the past, and there was no indication that Myanmar would expedite the repatriation process.
Mahmood, who is leading a 15-member delegation on a four-day visit, is scheduled to tour Northern Rakhine State this morning to see the preparations for repatriating more than 720,000 Rohingyas who have taken shelter in Bangladesh since August 25 last year to escape a brutal military crackdown.
Myanmar Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population Thein Swe and Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye were also present at yesterday's meeting.
Later, Myanmar State Counsellor's Office posted a press release on its official Facebook page, outlining the issues discussed at the meeting. However, Bangladesh foreign ministry didn't issue any statement as of 11:00pm yesterday.
The two countries discussed the implementation of the bilateral agreement -- the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State -- signed on November 23 last year.
They agreed on eight points, including one on intensifying cooperation on counter-terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking through exchange of intelligence, collaboration between border guard officials and coordinated border patrols.
The two sides reached a consensus on quick repatriation of the Rohingyas staying along the international border between Myanmar and Bangladesh, in particular the area between the international border and the fence put up on Myanmar territory.
As per last year's agreement, Myanmar has built two reception centres and a transit camp, according to the press release issued by Myanmar State Counsellor's Office.
Bangladesh has confirmed progress on the five transit camps; one is complete, another is under construction, and three are yet to be built, it mentioned.
Both parties agreed that the repatriation of the Rohingyas will be done in a voluntary, safe and dignified manner, and verification forms are to be distributed among them.
Signatures, fingerprints, and photo IDs are to be completed when the refugees fill out the forms by themselves. This needs to be done to indicate voluntary return and assist with Myanmar's verification process, it added.