By OLIVER SLOW | FRONTIER
YANGON — The Myanmar government has said it will “soon” begin a national verification process for those who have fled to Bangladesh in the wake of recent violence in northern Rakhine State.
An estimated 480,000 people – nearly all Muslims who identify as Rohingya – have entered Bangladesh since August 25, when fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked 30 police outposts.
Many of those arriving in Bangladesh said that members of the military, alongside Rakhine vigilantes, attacked their villages in the aftermath of the attacks.
The government and military have denied the accusations, saying the attacks were launched by ARSA and that Muslims were setting fire to their own homes.
Dr Win Myat Aye, Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement was quoted in state-run media on Thursday as saying that the process will begin at Taungpyo Letyar village in the very north of Maungdaw Township, for those returning from Bangladesh by road, and at Nga Khu Ya village, north of Maungdaw town, for those returning by boat.
“After the verification process, the refugees will be settled at Dar Gyi Zar village,” Win Myat Aye told reporters after a meeting of the committee on implementing recommendations on Rakhine State in Nay Pyi Taw. Dar Gyi Zar is about a two hour drive north of downtown Maungdaw.
The minister echoed comments made by State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her speech to the international community on September 19, saying that the process would be agreed on the principles agreed by Myanmar and Bangladesh in 1993.
The article said that U Kyaw Tint Swe, Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor, will travel to Bangladesh “in the near future” to hold talks with counterparts there about the NVC process.
Speaking to Frontier in makeshift refugee camps in Bangladesh last week, many Rohingya said they would only return to Myanmar if the government could guarantee their safety, while others said they had seen such violence that they were not sure they ever wanted to return.
Many Rohingya are suspicious of the NVC, as they believe it will make it more difficult for them to gain citizenship.
In her Nay Pyi Taw speech, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “We would appreciate it if all friends could persuade them to join in the process because they have nothing to lose by it.”
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has called on the Myanmar government to bring an end to the “unacceptable tragedy” taking place in Rakhine.
“We need the violence to stop and all those who have fled to be able to return to their homes quickly and safely,” said Mr Mark Field, the UK’s Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific after a visit to the country, where he met with Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Burma has taken great strides forward in recent years, but the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine risks derailing that progress.”