Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu kyi has reportedly promised to facilitate the process of taking back Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.
She made the assurance after 'concern' for the welfare of the displaced members of the ethnic group was raised during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN summit led by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on Monday, reports the Manila Bulletin.
According to CNN Philippines, the Filipino president's spokesperson Harry Roque said, "Myanmar said they were in the process of attending to the Kofi Annan report, that they welcome humanitarian assistance."
It also quoted him as saying that the process of repatriating the internally displaced persons or IDPs "will conclude within three weeks after signing of a memorandum of agreement or understanding with Bangladesh".
Roque was present at the closed-door plenary session of the summit where the issue was discussed, CNN Philippines reported.
Citing diplomatic sources, it added Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore raised the Rohingya issue.
A draft of the statement to be issued after the end of the summit on Tuesday, reportedly makes no mention of the exodus of the Rohingyas fleeing a brutal army crackdown in Rakhine State into Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has been demanding for long that Myanmar take back their nationals. It renewed the demand and sought international support after the latest exodus of Rohingyas started.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal visited Myanmar last month to discuss the repatriation process following the visit by a minister of Suu Kyi.
The two governments agreed to form a joint working group to repatriate the Rohingyas, officials said.
At a recent programme in Dhaka, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said Bangladesh was likely to sign an agreement with Myanmar 'soon' on repatriation of the Rohingyas.
He said the two countries will seal the deal after forming the joint working group following Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali’s visit to Myanmar by the end of this month to attend the 13th Asia–Europe Meeting or ASEM Summit.
At a recent international conference on India-Myanmar relations in Yangon, Myanmar the foreign secretary said his country had four ‘strict’ conditions on repatriating the Rohingyas, Kolkata-based Bangla daily Anandabazar reported.
-- who can provide documented proof of long-term residence in Myanmar
-- want to return to Rakhine of their own will
-- can prove that they have relatives on the Myanmar side of the border
-- and (in the case of children) can provide evidence their parents are permanent residents of Myanmar, will be allowed to return, Anandabazar said.
UK State Minister for Foreign Affairs Mark Field during his visit to Dhaka in September after meeting Suu Kyi in Myanmar said she had promised him that Rohingyas will be taken back from Bangladesh.
"She assured me she wants all refugees to return to Burma," he had said.
According to him, Myanmar’s de facto head of government was in a “difficult situation” and is trying to find the “fine line” between international pressure and domestic compulsion.
Bangladesh and the international community are also pressuring the Myanmar government to implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan commission.
The Myanmar government formed the commission headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan after the country drew condemnation for a similar army operation against the Rohingyas following attacks on security forces in October last year.
The crackdown by the army, which is still in control of the country, pushed some 67,000 Rohingyas into Bangladesh at the time.
Giving citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims and taking them back from Bangladesh after ‘joint verification’ are some of the key features of the Annan commission recommendations.
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