Rohingya family makes rare return to Myanmar from Bangladesh

Saleema Khanam, left, 8, studies inside a makeshift madrasa (Islamic seminary) with other boys in Kutupalong camp in Ukhia near Cox’s Bazar in this Aug.12, 2018 file photo. — AFP

YANGON — A Rohingya family of five has returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh, sources said on Thursday, a rare development while a large-scale repatriation deal remains stalled.

More than 720,000 of Myanmar’s stateless Muslim minority fled a brutal military crackdown in August last year, taking shelter in crowded camps in Bangladesh.

There they recounted tales of rape, murder and arson as villages in Rakhine state were burned to the ground.

United Nations investigators have said senior Myanmar military officials should be prosecuted for genocide, but the country has rejected these calls, insisting it was defending itself against militants.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal to bring back the Rohingya but many fear returning without guaranteed rights such as citizenship, access to healthcare and freedom of movement.

Authorities in Myanmar say more than 100 displaced Rohingya have returned in recent months though rights groups have questioned whether the returnees did so voluntarily.

The family of five “displaced people” came back to Rakhine state on Wednesday morning, state mouthpiece Global New Light of Myanmar reported Thursday.

Myanmar’s government has trumpeted each return but Bangladesh insists that the official process has not commenced.

The Bangladesh government’s Rohingya camp commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam said he had only heard about the family leaving, but has not received official confirmation of their return to Myanmar.

“Anyone can go back if he/she wants,” he said.

“But formal repatriation has not begun.”

Abdur Rahim, a Rohingya camp leader in Bangladesh, said the family had been staying in the Balukhali camp in Cox Bazar district.

“They returned to their home…near Maungdaw township in Rakhine yesterday,” he said.

UN agencies, which signed a deal with the Myanmar government to assess conditions on the ground in northern Rakhine, said they had carried out an initial survey in September of about two dozen villages.

“Mistrust, fear of neighboring communities and a sense of insecurity are prevalent in many areas,” they said in a statement. — AFP

Hassan Usman Author

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