ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Myanmar to take back refugees from Bangladesh
“Myanmar government has categorically informed us that they are ready to take back their citizens and they have the preparations to receive their documented and undocumented citizens, and sought lists of the Rohingyas for verification,” Bangladesh's Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes said yesterday.
Addressing a press briefing after the annual foreign secretary-level “Foreign Office Consultations” with Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint, he said sending back of refugees means voluntary repatriation as per international law.
The Myanmar minister is now on a three-day visit to Bangladesh.
Quayes said the Myanmar side at the meeting expressed gratitude to the Bangladesh government for not opening the border and not allowing Myanmar citizens into Bangladesh during the recent sectarian violence in the northern Rakhine province because it would create fresh problems in bilateral relations.
The foreign secretary said the Myanmar government has already cleared a list of 2,415 refugees out of around 29,000 in two camps to take them back, and of them, 10 families have agreed to go back voluntarily.
He, however, admitted that the repatriation is stalled due to recent sectarian violence in Rakhine province, but it would start immediately after improvement of the situation.
Myint reiterated his government's decision to take back the Rohingya intruders, who are staying outside the camps, and detained nationals, but it wants to confirm their citizenship through verification before taking them back, said Quayes.
He mentioned that around 400,000 undocumented Rohingyas are now living in Bangladesh while the number of other Myanmar citizens in prisons might be over 100.
At the sixth “Foreign Office Consultations”, Quayes led a nine-member delegation while Myint led a six-member team, which discussed a wide range of bilateral issues and explored new areas for cooperation.
The issues that figured prominently at the talks included Rohingya repatriation, formation of a joint commission at foreign minister- level, BIMSTEC, trade expansion, road, air and coastal shipping connectivity, submarine cable cooperation, import of gas and electricity from Myanmar, cooperation in the fields of agriculture, fisheries and livestock, institutionalisation of Joint Border Management as with India, defence cooperation, curbing trafficking, and drugs and narcotics control.
The Bangladesh side requested the Myanmar authorities to take effective measures so that drug, especially Yaba tablets, and arms are not smuggled into Bangladesh. Various pending trade and investment- related agreements and MoUs also came up for discussion.
The foreign secretary said the meeting decided to form a joint commission headed by the foreign ministers of Bangladesh and Myanmar soon.
On road connectivity, Quayes said the Myanmar side sought sending an inter-ministerial delegation from Bangladesh regarding construction of a 128-kilometre road to establish direct road links between the two countries.
Bangladesh had earlier offered to construct 23 km of the road with its own funds inside Myanmar, and asked Myanmar to build the remaining 105 km of the road. Dhaka yesterday reiterated its readiness to construct the road as per its earlier commitment.
On shipping connectivity, the foreign secretary said the two countries have already a joint committee on coastal shipping and Myanmar will send a delegation to Bangladesh to see the infrastructure facilities.
In response to Bangladesh's proposal to import hydroelectricity, the Myanmar side said they would consider it after meeting their domestic demand and that it is not possible for them to export electricity now.
To promote trade, Dhaka will soon arrange a single country exhibition in Yangon.
Meanwhile, Myint called on Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at her office. He thanked Dhaka for the support extended to Yangon in dealing with the recent violence in Rakhine state, said a press release.
In response, Dipu Moni assured Dhaka's cooperation in restoring peace and harmony in the bordering state of Rakhine.
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