DHAKA – Bangladesh opens talks with neighbouring Myanmar on Monday with the aim of securing the return home of more than half a million Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar , most of whom have arrived since late August.
The United Nations has called the exodus of 507,000 Rohingya since Aug. 25 the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency, and says Buddhist-majority Myanmar is engaging in ethnic cleansing against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
Myanmar rejects that. Its forces launched an offensive in the north of Rakhine state in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Aug 25.
Myanmar blames the insurgents for attacks on civilians and for setting most of the fires that have reduced more than half of more than 400 Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine to ashes. The insurgents deny that.
Myanmar says more than 500 people have been killed in the latest violence, most of them insurgents.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for an end to the violence and for safe zones to be set up in Myanmar to enable refugees to return.
She has also called for a UN fact-finding mission to go to Myanmar and for Myanmar to implement recommendations on solving problems in Rakhine drawn up by a team led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Bangladesh will focus on those five proposals in talks in Dhaka on Monday with Myanmar government official Kyaw Tint Swe, in particular the sustainable return of the refugees, a Bangladeshi foreign ministry official said.
“We don’t think this crisis is going to be resolved in just one meeting,” said the Bangladeshi official who declined to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to media on the record.
The crisis over Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya is the biggest problem national leader Aung San Suu Kyi has had to face since forming a government last year after winning a landmark election in late 2015.
Suu Kyi, in an address to the nation last month, said Myanmar was ready to start a verification process under a 1993 agreement with Bangladesh and “refugees from this country will be accepted without any problem”.
There were already about 300,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh before the most recent exodus.