Myanmar and U.N. Agree to Aim for Repatriation of Rohingya

Yet Myanmar’s government has formed half a dozen such commissions in recent months. Not one has resulted in any meaningful soul-searching by the military for actions that the United States has deemed ethnic cleansing. Instead, Myanmar officials have focused overwhelmingly on the attacks by the Rohingya militants, whom they call “terrorists.”

Given the continuing denials of wrongdoing by the Myanmar authorities, it is not surprising that most people sheltering in Bangladesh have little wish to return to Rakhine. A survey released on May 23by the Xchange Foundation, which investigates and documents human migration, found that among more than 1,700 Rohingya interviewed in camps in Bangladesh, 97.5 percent wished to eventually go home to Myanmar.

But nearly all of those surveyed said they would go back only if they were given Myanmar citizenship, as well as freedom of movement and religion. Myanmar’s government has given little indication that it would be willing to accede to those basic demands.

Myanmar and U.N. Agree to Aim for Repatriation of Rohingya
Myanmar and U.N. Agree to Aim for Repatriation of Rohingya

In recent years, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been increasingly persecuted, unable to travel freely, attend college or worship as they wish. Since 2012, about 120,000 have been interned in camps in central Rakhine.

Conditions in the Rohingya settlements in Bangladesh, which include the world’s largest single refugee camp, are dire, and the monsoon rains that are descending only make life more miserable. About 200,000 Rohingya live in flimsy shelters that are vulnerable to landslides and flooding, according to the United Nations.

On Thursday, the United Nations refugee agency cast skepticism on a Bangladeshi government plan to move Rohingya refugees from the camps in southeastern Bangladesh to a giant sandbar in the Bay of Bengal.

“I don’t really think it’s realistic to expect that the island will be a solution,” said George Okoth-Obbo, the United Nations refugee agency’s assistant high commissioner for operations, at a news conference in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital. Critics of the plan worry that every cyclone that strikes Bangladesh — and there are many — could endanger the lives of any Rohingya forced to live on the island, which is currently uninhabited.

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