Published: 2017-11-23 14:26
Last Updated: 2017-11-24 13:23
Myanmar and Bangladesh on Thursday signed a deal over terms for the return of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown, a government official said.
Myanmar's foreign ministry confirmed the signing of the agreement on Thursday, without releasing further details.
"We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us," said Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar's immigration ministry, referring to registration forms the Rohingya must complete with personal details before repatriation.
The military in the mostly Buddhist Myanmar has been accused of carrying out mass rape and other atrocities, during a counter-insurgency operation Rohingya militants in Rakhine State, launched late August.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said that the actions of the Myanmar's military against the minority Muslim Rohingya population constitutes ethnic cleansing, which has as seen hundreds of thousands of Rohingya driven out of Myanmar to the largely Muslim Bangladesh.
Following international pressure, Myanmar has signed now an agreement to the initial terms of returns, while Bangladesh wants to ensure refugee camps that have developed in the Cox’s Bazar region don’t become permanent.
Speaking at a military event in Dhaka, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she was calling on Myanmar “to start taking back soon their nationals from Bangladesh.”
The agreement comes following a meeting between Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladesh foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in Naypyitaw.
According to Myint Kyaing, the memorandum of understanding was based on the 1992-1993 repatriation agreement between the two countries following a previous burst of violence in Myanmar.
With the return, the main focus for diplomats and aid workers will be the protection of the Rohingya against further violence, resolving their legal status and establishing to return to their own homes and farms.
Since August 25 an estimated 620,000 Rohingya have fled across the border into neighboring Bangladesh, bringing with them horrific stories of executions, widespread arson and systematic rape.
Meanwhile, Myanmar has repeatedly denied claims it is deliberately attacking Rohingya civilians, and claim that they are fighting against a terrorist insurgency in the province.