Myanmar has accused Bangladesh of not distributing repatriation application forms to Rohingya refugees willing to return to the Rakhine state.
Naypyidaw made the claim after a 10-member team from Myanmar visited the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar from April 11-13 to meet some of the 700,000 Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh since last August, reported The Irrawardy
In December, Myanmar gave Bangladesh the repatriation application forms after the countries had agreed on a Joint Working Group that “would vet applicants’ backgrounds to confirm that they had been residents of Myanmar.”
Lt Gen Kyaw Swe visited Dhaka in January to share information about several hundred suspected ARSA members Myanmar believed were hiding among the refugees, according to The Irrawardy. Meanwhile, Bangladesh handed the general forms for 8,032 refugees who had applied for repatriation.
Social Welfare Minister U Win Myat Aye claimed at a media briefing on Thursday that the refugee camp representatives his team had met said “they had never seen any application forms”, and that none of the Rohingyas knew about it.
He said Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan “admitted that the completed forms for the 8,032 refugees were not the ones the two governments had agreed to [during the repatriation deal].”
According to the report, Myat Aye said Ali asked Khan to provide the refugees with the correct forms and give Myanmar the completed applications as early as possible.
However, the Myanmar officials did not say anything on whether Bangladesh had an explanation for why the correct forms had not been distributed and filled out to begin with.
The officials also claimed that Bangladesh ignored its requests to arrange meetings for the team with Rohingya imams, with refugees Myanmar had already agreed to allow back, and with Hindus.
U Hla Tun, who joined the team as a Hindu representative, alleged that Bangladesh said the Hindu camp was too far away when it was actually situated on the way to the refugee camps.
Myat Aye claimed that the camp representatives were “ill-informed” about National Verification Cards, which allowed “free movement, doing business, access to education, crossing international borders and fishing near international waters.”
He said he emphasized that cardholders were “eligible for citizenship after five months.”
Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya minority as citizens and calls them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The state-sponsored discrimination against the group stretches back decades.
During the officials’ visit, Rohingya representatives raised 13 demands, including property rights, ethnic rights and education.
Myat Aye said the trip had been “very successful” as the two countries were able to clarify some “misunderstandings” and agreed to speed up the repatriation process.
He said that when they asked the refugees if they wanted to go back, they had unanimously replied: “Yes, as soon as possible.”