Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday dismissed an agreement signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh to repatriate Rohingya refugees, calling it “laughable”.
“(Some) 620,000 Rohingya refugees have only just escaped one of the most brutal cases of mass persecution in recent times… The idea that Myanmar will now welcome them back to their smouldering villages with open arms is laughable,” said HRW’s Bill Frelick.
Bangladesh and Myanmar on Thursday signed a memorandum of intent that opens the way for the return of the displaced Rohingyas, whose exodus began on August 25 after attacks by an insurgent group and the subsequent retaliation by the Myanmar Army, reports Efe news.
The memorandum contains “the general guiding principles and policy arrangements to systematically verify and receive the displaced persons from Rakhine state”, said the office of the State Counsellor of Myanmar and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Frelick called on the international community to “make it clear that there can be no returns without international monitors to ensure security”, calling the bilateral agreement a public relations stunt.
He also called for a rejection of plans to establish detention camps, urging the return of their land and the reconstruction of towns and homes belonging to the Rohingya, the Muslim minority not recognised by Myanmar.
“Even then, it will be hard to build the trust necessary for many Rohingya to voluntarily return unless the Myanmar Army begins the mammoth task of reversing decades of abuses and discrimination against its Rohingya population,” Frelick added.
Neither the Myanmar nor Bangladeshi authorities have revealed the details of the agreement, including when the repatriation of the 622,000 refugees will begin.
Myanmar has said it was willing to receive them as soon as possible but only after identifying them, determining their place of origin and sharing this information between the two countries.
The current Rohingya exodus began with the retaliatory operations of the Myanmar armed forces launched after the rebel group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked some 30 military and police checkposts in Rakhine.