Government officials from Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed yesterday to halt the outflow of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh and enable the refugees to return home. "Myanmar affirms its commitment to immediately halt the outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh, to restore normalcy in Rakhine to enable displaced Myanmar residents to return from Bangladesh at the earliest" possible time, the sides said in a joint statement.
More than 600,000 Rohingya from northern Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar security forces began a scorched-earth campaign against Rohingya villages. Earlier this month, the two sides agreed to set up a working group on the repatriation process. Myanmar's Buddhist majority denies that Rohingya Muslims are a separate ethnic group and regards them as having migrated illegally from Bangladesh, although many families have lived in Myanmar for generations.
The exodus of the Rohingya has become a major humanitarian crisis and sparked international condemnation of Buddhist-majority Myanmar. The United States is taking steps and considering a range of further actions over Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority, including targeted sanctions under its Global Magnitsky law, the State Department said on Monday. It marked the strongest U.S. response so far to the months-long Rohingya crisis but came short of applying the most drastic tools at Washington's disposal such as reimposing broader economic sanctions suspended under the Obama administration.