Myanmar and Bangladesh have agreed to immediately halt the “outflow” of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh and take steps to return them to Myanmar, where the Muslims have been fleeing from because of government-sanctioned violence in the first place.
Myanmar’s home affairs minister, Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe, and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Asaduzzaman Khan, signed two agreements covering security and border cooperation in a meeting in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, on Tuesday.
The two sides agreed “to halt the outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh,” and “to form a joint working group,” said Tin Myint, the permanent secretary of Myanmar’s home affairs ministry.
The two sides also agreed to “arrange different steps so that these people can return to their homeland safely and honorably and in secure conditions,” said Mostafa Kamal Uddin, the secretary of the Bangladeshi home affairs ministry.
It was not clear what specific steps would be taken to safely return the persecuted Rohingya to Myanmar, where they have faced death, torture, and rape by Myanmarese soldiers and Buddhist mobs since late last year.
There was also no mention of whether the violence against the Rohingya would stop in Myanmar or whether the refugees would be forcefully returned.
The Myanamarese government does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, and the military has laid siege to the Muslims in the western state of Rakhine, claiming that armed Rohingya attacks have triggered the siege.
But numerous reports and eyewitness accounts say the military has been targeting civilians.
Also, a report last month revealed that Myanmar was planting landmines across an area of its border with Bangladesh to prevent the return of the Muslims.
There was no clear indication that the situation would change for the better. The Bangladeshi side said that Myanmarese government had sent a list of suspects who had “fled” to Bangladesh and requested the authorities there to investigate and send them back to Myanmar.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people took to the streets in Myanmar’ Rakhine, calling on the government in Myanmar not to return the refugees.
The Rohingya Muslims started fleeing the western Rakhine in October 2016, when the government launched the military campaign against them.
Over 600,000 Muslims have so far fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh, according to the United Nations (UN).