Burma is not ready for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, said the most senior United Nations official to visit the country this year, after Burma was accused of instigating ethnic cleansing and driving nearly 700,000 Muslims to Bangladesh.
Burma’s panel of international advisers on Rohingya issues says the coming monsoon season could bring “enormous deaths” as refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh are not built to withstand the storms.
Malaysia intercepted a boat carrying 56 Rohingya refugees from Burma off its northern island of Langkawi on Tuesday and will allow them to enter on humanitarian grounds, with rights groups expecting further such perilous journeys by sea.
A boat with Rohingya refugees restocked with essential supplies at an island in southern Thailand on Sunday, authorities said, amid signs that overcrowding in Bangladeshi camps could prompt many others to make similarly perilous sea crossings.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed “shock” at comments by Burma’s military chief in which he said the Rohingya minority shared nothing in common with the rest of the population and that their demand for citizenship had stoked recent violence.
Minister says Bangladesh is paying the entire US$280 million to build homes and fortify the muddy island in the Bay of Bengal from cyclones, and that it was mulling a formal request for international funds.
Burma has only been able to verify 374 Rohingya Muslim refugees for possible repatriation from Bangladesh, officials said on Wednesday, blaming their neighbour for not providing the correct information about the refugees.
Crimes verging on genocide were being committed against the Rohingya minority in Burma, and those crimes bore “the fingerprints of the Myanmar government and of the international community,” the United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide said on Tuesday.
After driving nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country, Burma’s military is building bases where some of their homes and mosques once stood, Amnesty International said on Monday, citing new evidence from satellite imagery.
Burma’s “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims is continuing, a senior UN human rights official said on Tuesday, more than six months after insurgent attacks sparked a security response that has driven nearly 700,000 people into Bangladesh.
Bangladesh will send a protest note to Burma over an increased security presence near a portion of their border where thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been sheltering just inside Burma, a Bangladesh border guard official said on Thursday.
Officials and aid workers fear that the welcome is wearing thin for Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh since August, due to the unprecedented number of refugees and growing doubts over whether Burma will ever take them back.
Burma has bulldozed the remains of Rohingya Muslim villages to make way for refugee resettlement, not to destroy evidence of atrocities, an official leading reconstruction efforts in the troubled northern state of Rakhine said on Monday.
Bangladesh is racing to turn an uninhabited and muddy Bay of Bengal island into home for 100,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Burma, amid conflicting signals from top Bangladeshi officials about whether the refugees would end up being stranded there.
Burmese and Bangladeshi representatives held talks about 5,300 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between their two countries and visited the area on Tuesday, officials and Rohingya refugees told Reuters.
Representatives from Bangladesh and Burma will meet on Tuesday to discuss the repatriation to Burma of more than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between the two countries, Bangladeshi officials said.
Veteran US diplomat Bill Richardson has resigned from an international panel set up by Burma to advise on the Rohingya crisis, saying it was conducting a “whitewash” and accusing the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of lacking “moral leadership.”
The United Nations on Wednesday called on Burma to give aid agencies unhindered access to camps it has built for tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees before they can return after fleeing Burmese military operations last year.
The UN refugee agency and other groups have urged a rethink of the plan to send Rohingya refugees back to Burma amid fears of forced repatriations and the inability of aid agencies to ensure the safety of hundreds of thousands who fled bloodshed at home.
Cases of men and women enslaved in bonded labour or trafficked for marriage have started to emerge in India after they managed to escape or were rescued and found their way to Rohingya settlements there.
Bangladesh has delayed the repatriation of Rohingya Muslim refugees to Burma, set to start on Tuesday, because the process of compiling and verifying the list of people to be sent back is incomplete, a senior Bangladeshi official said.