More than 730,000 Rohingya refugees live in Bangladesh, having fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar where security forces are accused of carrying out killings, gang rape and arson in a crackdown after attacks on police posts by Rohingya insurgents in August 2017.
Bangladesh is hosting refugees in cramped conditions in camps in the border district of Cox’s Bazar, but wants to move them to a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, citing monsoons and an increasingly deteriorating law and order situation fueled by drug smuggling.
“We are willing to repatriate them in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” Myanmar’s Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor, Kyaw Tint Swe, proclaimed.
The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has denied citizenship to most Rohingya, who are generally seen as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, even though many trace their roots in Rakhine State in western Myanmar back for generations.
Ending near-perpetual civil war characterized by myriad ethnic conflicts has been a stated top priority of the Myanmar government.
The peace process, which has been eclipsed in media coverage by the plight of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh from violence in the northwest, is key to unlocking the resource-rich country’s potential and guaranteeing development for its more than 50 million people.
Tint Swe reported the latest developments in the peace process.
“The achievement of national reconciliation and peace is our government’s topmost party,” he said. “We have convened three sessions of the Union peace conference and adopted a total of 51 basic principles to be included in the Union peace accord. A total of 10 ethnic armed organisations have already signed the nationwide cease-fire agreement. Despite the recent successes in broadening the agreement’s coverage, there is still a long way to go before all remaining non-signatories are on board.”