Myanmar’s delaying tactics blocking Rohingya return: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina

Dhaka (TIP): Bangladesh’s leader accused neighboring Myanmar of finding new excuses to delay the
return of more than 700,000 Rohingya who were forced across the border over the past year, and said
in an interview late Tuesday that under no circumstance would the refugees remain permanently in her
already crowded country.
“I already have 160 million people in my country,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, when asked
whether Bangladesh would be willing to walk back its policy against permanent integration. “I can’t take
any other burden. I can’t take it. My country cannot bear.”
Hasina was speaking to Reuters in New York, where she is attending the annual United Nations meeting
of world leaders.
The prime minister, who faces a national election in December, said she does not want to pick a fight
with Myanmar over the refugees.
But she suggested patience is growing thin with Myanmar’s leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San
Suu Kyi, and its military that she said wields the “main power” there.
Hasina has previously called on the international community to pressure Myanmar to implement the
deal.
Calls to Myanmar’s government spokesman, Zaw Htay, went unanswered. He said recently that he will
no longer answer media questions by phone, but will answer questions at a biweekly press conference.
Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after a bloody military campaign against the Muslim
minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The two countries reached a deal in November to begin
repatriation within two months, but it has not started, with stateless Rohingya still crossing the border
into Bangladesh and the refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.

“They agree everything, but unfortunately they don’t act, that is the problem,” Hasina said of Myanmar.
“Everything is set but … every time they try to find some new excuse,” she told Reuters.
Myanmar has said it is ready to take back the refugees and has built transit centers to house them
initially on their return.
But it has complained that Bangladesh has not provided its officials with the correct forms. Bangladesh
has rejected those claims and U.N. aid agencies say it is not yet safe for the refugees to return.
Given the delays, Bangladesh has been preparing new homes on a remote island called Bhasan Char,
which rights groups have said could be subject to flooding. Cox’s Bazar is also vulnerable to flooding but
this year’s monsoon season was light. Hasina said building permanent structures for refugees on the
mainland “is not at all a possibility (and) not acceptable” since they are Myanmar citizens and must
return.
Rohingya regard themselves as native to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, but are widely considered
interlopers by the country’s Buddhist majority and are denied citizenship.
Human rights groups and Rohingya activists have estimated thousands died in last year’s security
crackdown, which was sparked by attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security forces in Rakhine in August
2017.
This week, a U.S. government investigation reported that Myanmar’s military waged a planned,
coordinated campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities against the Rohingya. (Reuters).

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