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Before They Go Back Home, The Rohingyas Have Some Demands

Last August, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled their native Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh, escaping a brutal campaign of murder, repression and rape by Myanmar’s military and militant Buddhist groups.

Now the Rohingya are waiting for the political deal that will allow a return to their homeland in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. But will it happen?

More than 1.2 million Rohingya live in the world’s largest refugee camp in cramped and squalid conditions on the edge of Cox’s Bazar. The repatriation was meant to begin two months ago after a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh. And the Bangladeshi government is keen to speed things up, as they fear the upcoming monsoon could devastate the camps.

The Kutupalong camp in December. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

Refugees demands

According to a report by Newyork Times, Rohingya community leaders in the Bangladesh camps say they will return only if Myanmar’s government gives them the same rights it has given the country’s dozens of other ethnic minority groups.

“Our demands are known to all,” said Mohammed Osman, who arrived in Bangladesh in early September and is now a deputy camp block chief. “We want full citizenship rights.”

The refugees demanded that the Burmese government guarantee freedom of movement in Rakhine and the “right of Rohingya to return to our original land”, close camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and establish no more and involve the UN refugee agency in their repatriation process.

In addition, they called upon the government to permit international media, humanitarian organizations, and human rights observers access to Rakhine State.

According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, Burma has bulldozed at least 55 villages that were vacated during the violence.

Recently,  Myanmar government has set up temporary repatriation housing camps in Rakhine State. However, Human Rights Watch has condemned it as open air prisons, which makes the prospect of return less likely.

A makeshift mosque in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

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