Myanmar, Bangladesh sign Rohingya repatriation deal: Is the refugee crisis ending soon?
Dhaka, Nov 24: After months of heart-wrenching stories regarding the Rohingya refugees, here comes some good news about the "world's most persecuted minority community".
If all goes well, the refugees from Myanmar, currently taking shelter in Bangladesh, could go back to their homeland soon.
According to reports, Myanmar on Thursday agreed to take back tens of thousands of Rohingyas who fled the country to Bangladesh following a military crackdown that has been dubbed as "ethnic cleansing" by the United States (US).
Till date, more than 622,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 25, when the military intensified crackdown against alleged militant outfits of Rohingya Muslims.
The decision of the Myanmar government to take back Rohingyas came after months of negotiations between the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments with apt support from several other countries.
The two neighbours signed an arrangement on the return of displaced Myanmar persons sheltered in Bangladesh, a foreign office statement said in Dhaka.
Bangladesh's foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali and Myanmar's union minister U Kyaw Tint Swe signed the agreement in Naypyidaw, the capital city of Myanmar.
The "arrangement", the statement said, stipulated that "the return (of Rohingyas) shall commence within two months" while a joint working group would be established within the next three weeks and a "specific bilateral instrument (physical arrangement) for repatriation will be concluded in a speedy manner".
Bangladeshi officials familiar with the development said the agreement was being negotiated with Myanmar for the past few months while it was nearly finalised on Wednesday at Naypyidaw by senior officials of the two countries.
Putting pressure on Myanmar, the US on Wednesday declared as "ethnic cleansing" the violence against Rohingya Muslims in the country and warned that the Donald Trump administration could impose new penalties on the Buddhist-majority country.
Also, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi travelled to both Bangladesh and Myanmar this week and held talks with their top leadership to resolve the Rohingya crisis, one of the world's most dire refugee crisis.
Wang had proposed initiatives including three-phased solution so as to fundamentally resolve the Rohingya crisis. Bangladesh and Myanmar had agreed to his proposal.
The statement said the foreign minister earlier on Thursday called on state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and discussed issues of mutual cooperation in areas of trade, energy and connectivity under Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM).
In brief comments to the media, Ali described the deal as the "first step" while Myanmar said it was ready to receive the Rohingya "as soon as possible".
"We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us," foreign news agencies said quoting Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar's ministry of labour, immigration, and population.
Ali also handed over three ambulances for Rakhine State, the scene of atrocities, as "gift from the government of Bangladesh" to Myanmar.
In spite of the positive development that took place on Thursday, experts fear that the process of repatriation of Rohingyas is going to be a long-drawn one as several issues still remained unresolved.
Moreover, the Myanmar government is surely going to face massive protests from Buddhist groups for taking back the Rohingyas.