Myanmar and Bangladesh have Reached an Agreement to Return the Rohingya Refugees

Rohingya refugees walk in the rain in Bangladesh's Balukhali refugee camp. AFP file

Since October 2016, the conflict between Myanmar's Buddhist majority and the predominantly Muslim Rohingya has escalated considerably.

The United States has called the Myanmar military operation against the Rohingya population "ethnic cleansing" and threatened targeted sanctions against those responsible for what it called "horrendous atrocities".

Foreign minister Mahmood Ali and Myanmar's minister for state counsellor's office Kyauw Tint Swe signed the instrument, read a statement of Bangladesh's foreign ministry. Almost one million Rohingya have been forced to leave their homes, many fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

The statement, which did not use the term Rohingya, said the pact follows a formula set in a 1992 repatriation agreement signed by the two nations after an earlier bout of violence. "We will give details of the deal once we return to Dhaka".

Rohingya refugee children wait for food at a distribution centre in Ukhia district on Thursday.

More than 620,000 rohingya fled to Bangladesh in August after the Myanmar army launched a military campaign against Muslims.

"It's my call to Myanmar to start taking back soon their nationals from Bangladesh".

"Those responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable", he said, and called for an independent investigation into the violence. The authorities in Myanmar have said they will confiscate all land that they consider "abandoned".

"We support the Burmese government's commitment to create the conditions necessary for all refugees and internally displaced people to return to their homes safely and voluntarily, and welcome recent exchanges between the governments of Burma and Bangladesh on repatriation", he added. In late October, officials in Myanmar ordered the harvesting of fields that had been deserted in the Rohingya exodus. Tillerson deemed the violence the Rohingya have been subjected to "horrific", and announced a boost in USA humanitarian aid for the displaced population to $87 million. During a visit last week to Myanmar, Tillerson said events in the west coast state of Rakhine had the "characteristics of crimes against humanity" but stopped short of describing them as ethnic cleansing.

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"The key test of any democracy is how it treats its most vulnerable and marginalized populations, such as the ethnic Rohingya and other minority populations", Tillerson said.

UNFPA officials say the USA aid cut is trickling down to affect Rohingya women and girls because the agency is a lead provider of services to displaced populations.

Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh were wary of the accord.

The agency has so far deployed 42 midwives who have delivered more than 400 babies, says Mr. Coquelin. The report recommends a register of all those who've moved into Bangladesh to be used as the basis of getting them back home. "But right now it's taking a lot of time to get access to these services". "This is the most rapid scale we've seen since perhaps Kosovo" in 1998, he says.

Annan says during the papal visit the Holy Father will be "giving a voice to the voiceless", but he'll also be reasoning with the leaders in the Myanmar, as well as other groups there.

Mr. Sullivan, who visited the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh in May (when the numbers were much smaller) and then again in September, says he would not be able to tie the dearth of services for Rohingya women and girls to cuts in USA funding, "although it makes sense to me", he adds.

But on the other hand, he does say that a retreat by the USA on human-rights issues has had a noticeable impact on the ground in crises like that of the Rohingya.

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