BANGKOK – Human rights organization Amnesty International warned on Thursday that it was still unsafe for members of the Rohingya ethnic minority to return to Myanmar.
A process to repatriate refugees of this mainly-Muslim minority was scheduled to begin on Thursday.
“Bangladesh and Myanmar’s recent proposal to repatriate thousands of Rohingya has triggered widespread fear in the refugee camps. Memories of murder, rape and torched villages are still fresh in the minds of Rohingya refugees,” said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia.
“With Myanmar’s military as powerful and remorseless as ever, it remains unsafe for anyone to return to Rakhine,” Bequelin added in a statement.
On Aug. 25, 2017, the Myanmar military launched a violent crackdown against Rohingyas after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents attacked several security posts.
About 740,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh during the wave of persecution and violence in Myanmar that the UN has described as ethnic cleansing and possible genocide.
“This grim anniversary is a stark reminder of the failure of the UN Security Council to stand with the survivors and bring the perpetrators of mass atrocity to justice,” Amnesty’s regional director said, calling for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and impose an arms embargo.
“The situation for the Rohingya and Myanmar’s other persecuted ethnic minorities will never improve until Myanmar’s military faces justice for its appalling crimes,” Bequelin stressed.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed last week to repatriate 3,454 Rohingyas at a processing rate of a total of 300 refugees a day, who would be transferred for a month to a processing center.
The two countries tried to implement a similar plan last year but it failed miserably as almost no refugees wanted to return.
Myanmar classifies Rohingyas as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, denying them citizenship and imposing a number of restrictions, including limits on their freedom of movement.