Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that her government is holding talks with Bangladesh on the return of “those who are now in Bangladesh.”
She gave no details, but officials suggested that these refugees would need to provide residency documents, which few have, reports New York Times.
In a televised address on Thursday, she also called for national unity, saying she has created a committee that will oversee all international and local assistance in violence-struck Rakhine State, said the New York Times report.
More than 520,000 Rohingya have fled from the state to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 25, when security forces responded to attacks by insurgents with a broad crackdown on the long-persecuted minority, which the UN has called a “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
New York Times reports that Suu Kyi acknowledged in her speech that Myanmar was facing widespread criticism over the refugee crisis, and called for unity in tackling the problem.
Myanmar’s Buddhist majority denies that the Rohingya, mostly Muslims, are a separate ethnic group and regards them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, although many families have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Suu Kyi did not use the word “Rohingya” in her speech on Thursday, but referred to several other ethnic minorities by name. She also stayed away from mentioning the brutal persecution of the Rohingya carried out by the Myanmar security forces.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former political prisoner has been widely criticised for not speaking out on behalf of the Rohingya while Myanmar officials deny the “ethnic cleansing.”
She said in her speech that those who return from Bangladesh would need to be resettled, without providing details, and that development must be brought to Rakhine to achieve durable peace, reports New York Times.
It quoted Suu Kyi as saying that she would head the new committee, the “Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine,” and that it would coordinate all efforts to create a “peaceful and developed Rakhine state.”
The Myanmar government has tightly restricted access to Rakhine for international aid groups and journalists.
Suu Kyi also said her government has invited UN agencies, financial institutions such as the World Bank, and others to help develop Rakhine.