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Myanmar blames Bangladesh for delayed return of Rohingya

  • Published at 06:39 pm January 23rd, 2018
  • Last updated at 01:18 am January 24th, 2018
Myanmar blames Bangladesh for delayed return of Rohingya

Myanmar blamed Bangladesh on Tuesday for delays to a huge repatriation program for Rohingya refugees, as the deadline passed for starting the return of the ethnic minority to strife-torn Rakhine state.

Nearly 690,000 Rohingya escaped to Bangladesh after a brutal Myanmar army crackdown began last August, while a further 100,000 fled an earlier bout of violence in October 2016.

Myanmar agreed that from January 23 it would start taking them back from the squalid camps in Cox's Bazar where they have sought shelter. But Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner said on Monday the program would not begin as planned.

The commissioner, Mohammad Abul Kalam, said there was much more work to be done.

The complex process of registering huge numbers of the dispossessed has been further cast into doubt by the refugees themselves, who are too afraid to return to the scene of what the UN has called "ethnic cleansing."

Myanmar has been accused of drawing out the repatriation process by agreeing to take back just 1,500 people a week. It has prepared two reception camps on its side of the border.

Myanmar officials said that by Tuesday afternoon no Rohingya had crossed back into Rakhine, the scene of alleged widespread atrocities by Myanmar's army and ethnic Rakhine mobs.

"We are right now ready to receive... we are completely ready to welcome them according to the agreement," Kyaw Tin, Minister of International Cooperation told reporters in Naypyidaw, Myanmar's capital.

"We have seen the news that the Bangladesh side is not ready, but we have not received any official" explanation, he added.

National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said "it is our hope that this will commence today as agreed."

With hundreds of Rohingya villages torched and communal tensions still at boiling point in Rakhine, rights groups say Rohingya returnees will at best be herded into long-term camps.

Those who return must sign a form verifying they did so voluntarily and pledging to abide by Myanmar laws.

Myanmar has sent a list of more than 1,000 "wanted" alleged Rohingya “militants” to Bangladesh, while headshot photos of the suspects have been widely circulated inside the country.