Published: Wed, November 14, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

China Ready to Help Bangladesh in Rohingya Repatriation - Foreign Minister

China Ready to Help Bangladesh in Rohingya Repatriation - Foreign Minister

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group denied citizenship in Myanmar and therefore are effectively stateless.

That campaign, which the United Nations has said should be investigated as a genocide, targeted the Muslim-majority ethnic group in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state, as well as other ethnic minorities in the area, killing thousands and sending hundreds of thousands fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh.

The countries agreed on mid-November for the start of repatriating some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled a sweeping army crackdown in Myanmar a year ago.

Survivors brought with them testimony of widespread murder, rape, torture and arson and are fearful of going back to Rakhine State without guarantees of safety, freedom of movement and citizenship.

The United Nations also says conditions are not yet safe for their return, in part because Myanmar Buddhists have been protesting against the repatriation.

"It depends on the other country, whether this will actually happen or not", Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's Minister for Social Welfare and Resettlement, told a news conference, referring to Bangladesh.

"Two transit camps have been completed since last two months".

But he was unable to confirm who would be in the first group to return, insisting that it was down to Bangladesh to make sure they meet the deadline this week.

It was announced that the sides had developed a "very concrete plan" to start repatriations in mid-November.

Myanmar on Saturday denied allegations of a cross-border shooting that raised tensions with Bangladesh ahead of the scheduled start date.

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Myanmar and Bangladesh had set up the JWG, comprising 15 members from each side in December a year ago.

Myanmar denies nearly all of the allegations, saying security forces were battling terrorists.

"The Myanmar ambassador promptly contacted the responsible officials from the Myanmar Border Guard, who confirmed that no shooting incident had taken place", the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is overseen by Aung San Suu Kyi, said in a statement late Saturday. Bangladesh has said it will not force anyone to do so.

"A formal protest through diplomatic channels based on dubious reports, as took place in this case, does not serve any useful objective", the ministry added.

Firas al Khateeb, a UNHCR representative in Bangladesh, told Reuters on Sunday that this effort had not yet begun.

"We need our rights and our citizenship in Myanmar", another refugee, Shafika Khatun, said. "But we have not concluded this process yet".

A plan to start repatriating Rohingya Muslims back to Myanmar is premature and the refugees are "terrified" about leaving Bangladesh where they sought refuge, dozens of aid agencies working in the region said Friday.

The best way to provide that knowledge to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is to allow them to go and see the conditions in Myanmar for themselves. UN-mandated investigators have accused the army of "genocidal intent" and ethnic cleansing.

The case prompted an outcry amid fears of declining press freedom in Suu Kyi's Myanmar and was lodged weeks after Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were sentenced to seven years on state secrets charges while reporting on a massacre of Rohingya Muslims.

He also said, the list prepared for Myanmar contained the name of at least 22,000 Rohingya.

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