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Iran Press TV

Myanmar ready for Rohingya repatriation, officials say

Iran Press TV

Sun Nov 11, 2018 06:13PM

Myanmar´s government says it will soon start repatriating persecuted Rohingya Muslim refugees to their home country, where they fled state-sponsored brutal military violence.

Speaking during a news conference in Yangon, Vice Minister of Home Affairs Major General Aung Thu said on Sunday that local security forces were prepared to verify the people coming back to Rakhine state and would "take action" against people with "likelihood of terrorist connections."

Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat also announced that Bangladesh had informed Myanmar authorities that repatriation would begin on Thursday.

"What they (Bangladesh) told us is mid-November, which is on the 15th day of this month. This is dependent on the other country's (Bangladesh) side whether this will happen or not. But we must be ready from our side. We have done the same."

"We have assigned all local security forces to verify the likelihood of terrorist connections among the returnees and will take action if found."

A Myanmar government statement said an initial group of 2,251 would be sent back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day. Myanmar's government insisted any delays to the repatriation would be the fault of Bangladesh.

UNHCR spokesman Firas Al-Khateeb confirmed this, but added that it had not yet fully resolved the issue despite the tight timeframe.

"(The Bangladesh government) asked us officially to assess the voluntariness of the refugees," he said. "But we have not concluded this process yet."

Abul Kalam, Bangladesh's repatriation commissioner, however, said he was unaware that a date had been set. "I have got no decision from our foreign ministry or any other higher authorities."

Myanmar prepares to take some of the refugees back after agreeing with Bangladesh to start repatriation on November 15.

The plan has met with widespread opposition from the Rohingya, who say they will not return without guarantees of basic rights, including citizenship and freedom of movement.

Both governments have been pushing ahead with this first large-scale repatriation effort. This has prompted criticism from a group of 42 aid agencies who say that it would be dangerous for them.

Last year, extremist Buddhist monks rushed to help Myanmar's military when it intensified its crackdown.

The campaign against the Rohingya, which the UN described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, has seen mass killings, torture, and gang-rape of the Muslims as well as arson attacks against their homes and farms in Rakhine.

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