Steps taken for verification and repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh
With the visit of a delegation comprised of Union ministers, diplomats and independent journalists to northern Rakhine State yesterday, the Union Government started to take steps to begin the verification and repatriation of refugees who fled to Bangladesh after the deadly terrorist attacks in August.
The delegation flew from Yangon to Sittway and were then taken by helicopter to areas where terrorists attacks occurred in August. The delegation included the Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor U Kyaw Tint Swe and the Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr. Win Myat Aye, who is also chairman of the committee on implementing the recommendations for Rakhine State, the Union Minister for Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe, the Deputy Minister for Border Affairs Maj-Gen Than Htut, ambassadors from five neighbouring countries, diplomats, and local and foreign journalists.
During the visit to Yathedaung Township’s Anaukpyin Village, where most of the Muslim community did not flee to Bangladesh and are living in peace, the Union ministers explained to the Islamic villagers about the government’s ongoing efforts on security and humanitarian aid to be provided, and the verification and repatriation process that will be implemented with the cooperation of the Bangladesh government.
Diplomats and journalists also interviewed villagers, enquiring if they had a desire to go to a neighbouring country.
Departing villagers have said that they feel less secure in Myanmar now because the number of Muslims is decreasing and many of their relatives are living in Bangladesh. Following the visit, the delegation met with about 1,000 Muslim villagers gathered near Layyinpyankwin Village and about 700 Muslim villagers gathered near the border fence, ready to leave for Bangladesh.
At the meeting with the villagers, Union Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe said that they came to meet the Muslim villagers who wanted to flee to Bangladesh, even though security forces halted law enforcement measures since 5 September.
The Union Minister also pledged to make arrangements for their return home and to provide aid, security and assistance if they wish to return.
Bangladeshi Ambassador Mr. Mohammad Sufiur Rahman also requested that villagers not to go to Bangladesh, disclosing that the two countries are negotiating to repatriate the refugees who are currently staying in Bangladesh and experiencing difficulties to make a living.
Meanwhile, the diplomats enquire about the cause of fleeing to the neighbouring country and if they receive humanitarian aid or not. At the meeting with Muslim villagers from the Pantawpyin in Maungtaw Township, the Union ministers pledged to rebuild the homes destroyed in the terrorist attacks and clarified the verification process. When arrived back the Maungtaw General Administration Department, Maungtaw District Deputy Commissioner U Ye Htut, clarified the regional situation before and after the terrorist attacks by ARSA extremist terrorists. They also visited the Ngakhuya Village where ethnic Rakhine people, Hindus and Muslim villagers are living in harmony and conveyed the message of the Union government on its commitment for rehabilitation and resettlement for the villagers.
During an ethnic Mro village of Khondaing which was completely torched by ARSA extremist terrorists, the Union ministers encouraged the villagers, promising that the government will coordinate with local authorities to rebuild a new village in a new area and to provide further humanitarian aid to them.
The delegation returned to Yangon yesterday evening.
During the trip, Union Minister U Kyaw Tint Swe reiterated the commitment made by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi that Myanmar will carry out the verification and repatriation of refugees in accordance with the agreed criteria set out in the Joint Statement between Foreign Ministers of Myanmar and Bangladesh in 1992. Though the number of refugees who fled to the neighbouring country is in the hundreds of thousands, the Myanmar government is committed to repatriation of those who actually settled in Myanmar, said U Kyaw Tint Swe.
He continued to say that similar issues occurred two times after independence, and both countries solved the issues bilaterally, in an amicable way.
The repatriation issue is one to be resolved by Myanmar and Bangladesh through negotiation, he added.
Though the security forces stopped law enforcement measures since 5 September, international communities misunderstand that the forces are continuing with security measures in northern Rakhine, said the Union Minister.
The trip showed the Myanmar government’s willingness to implement a national verification and repatriation process, while Myanmar’s neighbouring countries are urging them to take steps to solve the issue, which must be done through negotiation between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the Union Minister said. — Myanmar News Agency