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Rohingya's Repatriation From Bangladesh 'Major Concern'

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Arakan (Rakhine) Rohingya Union head says Myanmar, Bangladesh deal concerns international community.

A representative of the Rohingya Muslims on Friday voiced concern over the planned repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Myanmar and Bangladesh on Thursday signed a repatriation agreement for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh to escape the brutal military crackdown in the Maungdaw area of Myanmar's Rakhine State in recent months.

"We had a major concern when they did the bilateral agreement. We need to know what is in there," Wakar Uddin, head of the Arakan (Rakhine) Rohingya Union, told Anadolu Agency.

Uddin believes the ground and the conditions are inadequate for repatriation and hopes that Bangladesh addressed a series of issues --violence, discrimination, gang rape, persecution-- before making the agreement.

"You cannot take a group of people from a refugee camp, dump them in Arakan, and leave them there without any protection," he said.

Uddin pointed out that although the deal was a bilateral one between only Myanmar and Bangladesh, it concerned the international community such as the UN and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"This is a global issue. This issue is affecting many countries in the world," he said. "Bangladesh is burdened with over 1 million people, Pakistan with over 450,000 people, India is burdened with over 70-80,000 refugees, and Malaysia with 130,000 people and on."

Uddin said that his organization called for the UN Peacekeeping Force to provide security for the people returning to Myanmar, adding it would be "ridiculous" if Myanmar security forces took charge of protecting the Rohingya.

Asked about his further knowledge of Thursday's agreement, he said: "One thing is for sure. They will be moving, trading people in batches, in groups, in numbers. Beyond that is a mystery."

The questions of "where the people will be taken, would there be any houses for them, can they go to their original property, and who will guard them" remain a mystery, he added.

As for the current situation in Rakhine, Uddin said the violence had subsided, but not completely gone. "There are some isolated cases of burning of vigilantes backed by police. They set empty homes on fire."

Uddin added that National Verification Cards (NVC) were the biggest problem right now, as Rohingya Muslims are obliged to be self-identified as illegal immigrants in their own homeland as part of a discrimination policy forced by the Myanmar government.

He called the NVC campaign "downgrading" and a "suicide" which "will push the people out".

Uddin expressed his gratitude to Turkey for being "a leader for international advocacy" and to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for "convincing the Bangladeshi government to take in Rohingya".

The military crackdown launched on Aug. 25 has seen more than 620,000 Rohingya cross from Myanmar's Rakhine State into Bangladesh, according to the UN.

The refugees are fleeing a military operation that has seen security forces and Buddhist mobs kill men, women and children, loot homes and torch Rohingya villages.

Speaking in September, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali said around 3,000 Rohingya had been killed in the operation.

Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel.

In a recent report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

The international community has been pressuring Myanmar government and military for an immediate end of atrocities and for the safe return of Rohingya who are now sheltering in Bangladesh.


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