Outcry over leaked Asean report on Rohingya refugees

Naypyidaw: An Asean report predicting half a million Rohingya refugees will return to Myanmar in two years has left observers incredulous for glossing over army atrocities, ignoring an ongoing civil war in Rakhine state and failing to mention the persecuted Muslim minority by name.

The leaked report, penned by the South-East Asian bloc’s “Emergency Response and Assessment Team”, is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

It gives a glowing assessment of Myanmar’s efforts to entice Rohingya refugees back from Bangladesh, where some 740,000 have taken shelter in fetid, overcrowded camps.

They joined some 300,000 others who had fled earlier waves of violence in the South-East Asian country where they have been denied citizenship since 1982.

Claiming to root out insurgents, Myanmar’s military drove the Rohingya from Rakhine and over the border in a 2017 crackdown, the latest in several waves of persecution.

Evidence of widespread murder, rape and arson prompted UN investigators to call for the prosecution of top Myanmar generals for “genocide”.

The two countries signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 but so far virtually no Rohingya have volunteered to return out of fear for their safety and rights.

The “Preliminary Needs Assessment for Repatriation in Rakhine State, Myanmar”, works off the basis of 500,000 Rohingya returning.

That is the official number of refugees given by Myanmar, well below figures from Bangladesh and the UN.

The word “Rohingya” is not used in the report, which instead refers to the community as “Muslims”.

The report praises Myanmar on efforts to ensure “smooth and orderly” returns, echoing the South-East Asian country’s view that delays in repatriation are due to bungled paperwork by Bangladeshi officials.

Bangladesh puts the blame for the setback on Myanmar and says no refugees have yet volunteered to return. — The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network