Top Myanmar officials said the repatriation of ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh, to which more than 700,000 fled since last year to escape deadly violence carried out by Myanmar's security forces, will begin Thursday.
Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye said yesterday at a news conference that Bangladesh had informed Myanmar authorities that repatriation, agreed upon in principle months ago, would begin on that date. A Myanmar government handout said an initial group of 2,251 would be sent back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day.
Human rights advocates say conditions are not yet safe for the return of the Rohingya refugees, who have generally been denied citizenship and civil rights in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where prejudice against them runs high. The aid groups say that while it is true that Rohingya refugees want to return to their homes in Myanmar, they consistently say they will only do so after Yangon guarantees their citizenship, freedom of movement and physical safety. Myanmar has denied citizenship to Rohingya since 1982 and excludes them from the 135 ethnic groups it officially recognizes, which effectively renders them stateless.