Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a breakthrough deal to send back Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar from Bangladesh. Speaking on Thursday, a spokesman for Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said that the two nations had signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the displaced Rohingya to return to their homes in Rakhine State on Myanmar’s West coast. A statement from the Bangladesh foreign ministry indicated that the refugees’ return could begin in as little as two months.
Conspicuous in these statements, however, was a distinct lack of details. There was scant information on how many refugees would be allowed back into Myanmar, what the return would entail and what would be the status of the Rohingya on their return. The Rohingya, however are skeptical of a return unless citizenship and full rights are guaranteed.
Tales from Rakhine State have told of mass murder, rape and destruction of property of the minority Muslim Rohingya population in a predominantly Buddhist Myanmar. More than 600,000 have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since deadly Rohingya attacks on police posts prompted a military crackdown in Rakhine state in late August. The international community, including the United Nations and the united States have termed the crackdown as an ongoing genocide.
Rohingya Muslims have faced state-supported discrimination in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar for decades. Though members of the ethnic minority first arrived generations ago, Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless. They cannot travel freely, practise their religion or work as teachers or doctors, and they have little access to medical care, food or education. The Myanmar government has refused to accept them as a minority group, and the statement issued by Aung San Suu Kyi’s office did not use the term “Rohingya”. Amnesty International, the human rights group, said in a report on Tuesday that discrimination against Rohingya had worsened considerably in the past five years, and amounted to “dehumanising apartheid”.