Bangladeshi delegation visits Myanmar’s Rakhine state

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali on Saturday visited Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, where security forces have been accused of committing crimes against humanity on the minority Rohingya Muslim community.

A high-profile delegation led by Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali has toured transit camps as well as newly-built houses in the resettlement areas for the returnees, said Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.

At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published recently, the humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

“The delegation visited the area as they wanted to see themselves what we had prepared for the returnees,” said the minister, who was accompanying the visiting delegation.

The delegation began four-day visit to Myanmar on Thursday to discuss matters on Rohingya repatriation with Myanmar government.

According to a press release issued by Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry, the visiting foreign minister emphasized on the need for accelerating efforts for conductive environment in the Rakhine state and building houses and villages for the returnees.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

On Friday, the Bangladeshi foreign minister met with Kyaw Tint Swe, minister of Myanmar’s State Counselor Office in Nay Pyi Taw.

After the meeting, Myanmar and Bangladeshi officials said in a joint press release that they agreed on several points including establishing reception centers and transit camps in both countries, combating terrorism, drug-trafficking in border areas as well as repatriation of displaced persons residing along the border between the two neighbors.

* Mutasim Billah in Dhaka contributed to this news story.