Myanmar President U Win Myint has pardoned 58 displaced Rohingyas who were detained while attempting to re-enter the country from Bangladesh.
A total of 62 returnees were arrested by Myanmar local authorities for illegally crossing the border, Irrawaddy reports quoting a brief statement released yesterday by the State Counsellor’s Office in Yangon.
The group was attempting to return to strife-torn northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township from a refugee camp in Bangladesh, it said.
They were traveling independently, and not according to procedures outlined in an official refugee repatriation agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh signed on November 23, 2017, id added.
Cases against four of the detainees were later dropped. The statement did not specify how many were ultimately imprisoned, or under which articles of the criminal code. It did not name the home villages of those arrested.
According to the statement, the group was returning from a camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar. This is the first time any refugees have attempted to return from Bangladesh, it said.
Despite the bilateral agreement, not a single person had been officially repatriated as of Monday. In April, a five-member family led by Alphata Arlon -- an administrative official from Taungpyo Let Yar -- who spent several months camped on the Myanmar side of the border voluntarily re-entered the Taungpyo Let Wei refugee reception centre.
According to Sunday’s statement, authorities released the detained returnees to Nga Khu Ya reception camp from Buthidaung Prison in order to fill out the necessary forms as specified under the bilateral agreement. Next they will be temporarily settled in Hla Phoe Khaung transit camp, a separate location in northern Maungdaw. The statement avoided applying the contentious terms “Rohingya” or “Bengali” and simply referred to them as “displaced persons.”
The statement adds that authorities will not take action against any of the returnees unless they were involved in attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on government security outposts in August 2017.
Around 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to southeast Bangladesh in the past nine months since August 25 last year as they were violently expelled from Myanmar.