Singapore, Aug 21 (IANS) Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday that her country was working with the UN to allow the safe return of the minority Rohingya refugees who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following Army offensives in 2017.
In a televised conference in Singapore, Suu Kyi said that Myanmar had given UN officials access to more than 30 villages that they were preparing for the return of the Rohingyas following a repatriation agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar in November.
According to the agreement, the repatriation process would be completed within a period of two years after the signing of the deal.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, once seen as the face of Myanmar’s struggle for democracy, has been criticised worldwide for her failure to speak out against a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine that the UN called “ethnic cleansing”.
During the conference, Suu Kyi said that the country was ready to receive the refugees in the Rakhine state, although she did not mention any specific date for the return, Efe news reported.
She added that terror activities in Rakhine remained persistent, referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group of Rohingya rebels that was formed in 2013.
“It is a threat that could have grave consequences, not just for Myanmar but also for other countries in our region and beyond,” Suu Kyi said.
ARSA had carried out a series of attacks on government posts in northern Rakhine in August 2017 in protest against the persecution of the Rohingyas.
The attacks led to the military crackdown that caused the exodus of 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh, where they currently live in overcrowded refugee camps.
The Army offensive was globally condemned for its rights abuses, including killings, rapes and torching down of villages.
Human Rights Watch reported that at least six out of the 60 Rohingya refugees, who had returned to Myanmar in the last few months were detained and tortured by the Border Guard Police.
“Despite Myanmar’s rhetoric guaranteeing a safe and dignified return, the reality is that the Rohingyas who go back still face persecution and abuses,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia chapter.