April 10, 2018 / 10:17 AM / 10 months ago

Myanmar minister to visit Rohingya camps as Bangladesh seeks refugees' return

DHAKA (Reuters) - A Myanmar government minister will visit Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh on Wednesday, officials said, a rare trip Dhaka hopes will help speed the return home of hundreds of thousands of the neighboring nation’s Muslim minority.

FILE PHOTO: Rohingya refugees walk at Jamtoli camp in the morning in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/File Photo

Win Myat Aye, Myanmar’s minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, will speak with some of the roughly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims the United Nations and aid groups say fled a military crackdown in their Buddhist-majority country since last August.

“So many people of his country are here and it’s their moral obligation to see their conditions,” Mohammed Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and rehabilitation commissioner, told Reuters.

“His country may want to show the global leaders that they are sincere to repatriate. Bangladesh expects to resolve the problem soonest, as it is a huge burden for this country, which we cannot bear.”

The Myanmar minister confirmed to Reuters last week that he was visiting Bangladesh.

Kalam will accompany Win Myat Aye on the visit to the camps in Kutupalong, where many refugees live in shacks made of bamboo and plastic sheets that are unlikely to withstand heavy rains and storms brought by the monsoon season when it starts in June.

A Bangladesh foreign ministry official said his country wanted to show the visiting minister the challenges it was facing in hosting the refugees in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, bordering Myanmar.

Win Myat Aye, the minister charged by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi with leading rehabilitation efforts in the country’s Rakhine State that the Rohingya call home, is likely to meet Bangladesh’s foreign minister on Thursday, said the official, who declined to be identified, citing government policy.

Myanmar has said it has already verified several hundred Rohingya refugees for possible repatriation.

The Rohingya exodus followed reported killings, burnings, looting and rape in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces. Myanmar, which considers most Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Muslim-majority Bangladesh, has denied the accusations.

Writing by Krishna N. Das; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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