Bangladesh, Myanmar ink deal on repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh, Myanmar ink deal on repatriation of Rohingya refugees

The United States temporarily suspended travel for American officials to parts of Myanmar's Rakhine state, the U.S. Embassy said on Thursday, citing concerns over potential protests after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Myanmar of "ethnic cleansing" in the state.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Rakhine State in recent months amid the violence.

"They burned our houses, they took our land and cows - will they give us these things back?" asked Abdul Hamid from Hoyakong.

"No provocation can justify the horrendous atrocities that have ensued", Mr Tillerson said in a statement.

However, the government of Myanmar announced no details of the plan, which was immediately criticized by Amnesty International.

During his visit to the region last week, Tillerson stressed that Myanmar's response to the crisis would be vital to determining the success of its transition to becoming "a more democratic society" and that those responsible for such human rights abuses must be held accountable.

The United States on Wednesday also toughened its stance on Myanmar, accusing the country's security forces of perpetrating "horrendous atrocities" against the Rohingya that amount to "ethnic cleansing" of the Muslim minority.

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Meanwhile, Pope Francis will meet the Rohingya refugees in Dhaka when he visits the Bangladeshi capital next week, a Vatican spokesman said. Though members of the ethnic minority first arrived generations ago, Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them nearly all rights and rendering them stateless.

The two countries arrived at the agreement following talks between Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladesh's Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali, and after weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has had to fend off intense criticism for not doing more to resolve the crisis and end the violence.

He urged Myanmar to accept an independent investigation into those allegations, after which individual sanctions could be appropriate.

Tillerson stressed, however, that he wasn't advocating "broad-based economic sanctions" against the entire nation.

Myanmar has moved toward civilian government in recent years after decades of military rule, though the military retains significant power. "Now we have to start working".

According to the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention, "ethnic cleansing" is not recognized as an independent crime under global law either - unlike "crimes against humanity" and "genocide".

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