HANOI (Reuters) – Bangladesh has no plans to take in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees permanently, its foreign secretary said on Wednesday, adding that they “belong” to Myanmar from where they fled.
Some 700,000 Rohingya refugees crossed from the west of mostly Buddhist Myanmar into Bangladesh from August last year, according to U.N. agencies, when Rohingya insurgent attacks on Myanmar security forces triggered a sweeping military response.
Bangladesh and Myanmar reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not started, with stateless Rohingya still crossing the border.
“We are not thinking of assimilating them in Bangladesh. They belong to Myanmar,” Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi.
He also called on developed countries to take in more Rohingya on a humanitarian basis.
The Rohingya would stay in refugee camps until they return to Myanmar or are resettled in other countries, Haque said.
U.N. investigators last month said Myanmar’s military carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya with “genocidal intent”, and that the commander-in-chief and five generals should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law.
Myanmar has denied allegations of atrocities, saying its military carried out justifiable actions against militants.
It has built transit centres for refugees to return, but U.N. aid agencies say it is not yet safe for them to do so.
The Rohingya in Bangladesh are housed in camps in Cox’s Bazar. With a delay in the repatriation plan, Bangladesh has been preparing new homes on a remote island called Bhasan Char, which rights groups have said could be subject to flooding.
Haque told Reuters the island could be ready within months for the Rohingya to move in, adding that the plan to house the Rohingya there was only temporary.
Bangladesh’s prime minister this month urged the global community to increase pressure on Myanmar to ensure the repatriation of the Rohingya.
(Reporting by John Geddie and A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Nick Macfie)