First Rohingya family ‘back to Myanmar’
For the first time since August 2017, a five-member Rohingya family has reportedly returned to their homeland Myanmar.
The Rohingya man Mohammmad Akhter with his wife and three children left the zero-line settlement on Saturday, local sources confirmed.
But rights groups have slammed this move as a publicity stunt which ignored warnings over the security of the returnees.
The returnees were living in the zero line across the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Tambru area of Bandarban district since the August 25 military campaign.
A statement posted on the official Facebook page of Myanmar government’s information committee said, “The five members of a family… came back to Taungpyoletwei town repatriation camp in Rakhine state this morning.”
However, Bangladesh authorities have said the Rohingya family was not repatriated to Myanmar from Bangladesh because they were living in the zero line that is not under its control.
“A family that lived in Myanmar’s part of the zero line has returned to Myanmar and it is their internal matter,” said AKM Shamsuddoza, additional commissioner of refugee, relief and repatriation in Cox’s Bazar.
The Rohingya family returned to Myanmar two days after Myanmar state minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement Win Myat Aye visited Cox’s Bazar camps.
Sources confirmed that the Akhter family was taken to their relatives in Maungdaw township, although his village is within one kilometre of Tambru zero-Line settlement. There are no houses in their village but an army camp.
Akhter and his family crossed border on Saturday morning at Dekibunia point and he communicated with the Myanmar administration using a Myanmar mobile phone network, sources added.
At least 700,000 Rohingya entered Bangladesh fleeing violence that erupted in Myanmar on August 25, 2017.
A total of 1.1 million Rohingya now live in Bangladesh.
Around 6,000 Rohingya who fled after August 25 are living in no-man’s-land in Tambru area under Naikhangchhari of Bandarban district.
In the face of international outcry and charges of ethnic cleansing, Myanmar signed an agreement with Bangladesh on January 16 to accept Rohingya’s return, but repatriation has not begun yet.
Bangladesh has long been seeking sample rehabilitation of Rohingya living in ‘no-man’s-land’ of the border, prior to the start of formal repatriation.
“Repatriation of Rohingya from no-man’s-land to their country is not our concern. It is important to know how the Myanmar authorities are going to rehabilitate them as part of showing Myanmar’s sincerity over the Rohingya repatriation from Bangladesh,” Shamsuddoza told this correspondent earlier.
He further said, “If the repatriation of the Rohingya from zero line is done properly, it’d be helpful to build confidence in others to go back home.”
The UN refugee agency UNHCR and Bangladesh finalised a memorandum of understanding in Geneva on Friday relating to the voluntary return of Rohingya once conditions in Myanmar are conducive.
Firas Al-Khateeb, UNHCR communications officer in Cox’s Bazar, told Bangladesh Post that they are not aware of the Rohingya family who returned home from zero line.