DHAKA: Myanmar will take back 2,000 Rohingya Muslims from Bangladesh next month which will be followed by a second batch, a top official said Wednesday, a day after the two countries held talks here on repatriation of over 700,000 displaced refugees who fled to the neighbouring country following a military crackdown.
A group of 12 Myanmar officials, including foreign secretary Myint Thu, visited the crammed Rohingya camps in Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar where they met the minority community leaders in the largest makeshift camp at Kutupalang in an effort to start the reparation process.
The visit followed after Myanmar and Bangladesh reached a deal on the repatriation in line with an earlier agreed modality.
Bangladeshi officials said they had provided Myanmar a list of 32,000 Rohingyas in two phases, while Myanmar said they verified 5,000 of them.
According to media reports, Myanmar has suggested they could take back 2,000 refugees initially.
"From that 5,000, the first batch will be about 2,000 people. And then a second batch will follow. So in mid-November we will receive the first batch," Thu told reporters.
"We are looking forward to starting the repatriation by mid-November," Bangladesh's foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told newsmen Tuesday after the talks in Dhaka.
Thu said both sides agreed to a "very concrete" plan to start the process next month.
"We have shown our political will, flexibility and accommodation in order to commence the repatriation at the earliest possible date," Thu told reporters.
Myanmar earlier announced a large-scale repatriation plan in November 2017 but Dhaka alleged the country took little steps to keep their promise while Naypyidaw blamed Bangladesh for lacking the preparedness on its part for their return.
The development came amid repeated speculation about Myanmar's sincerity over the Rohingya repatriation.
A Bangladeshi official familiar with the meeting in Cox's Bazar said the Myanmar delegation handed the Rohingyas a pamphlet encouraging them to accept verification cards called NVC, saying it would guarantee their "socio-economic development" once they returned to their homeland of Rakhine state in Myanmar.
According to the pamphlets, those who do not have the card would eventually become "stateless" while the NVCs would pave ways for them to be "Myanmar citizens".
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh from Rakhine since August last year when Myanmar launched a brutal military crackdown, dubbed by UN as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and "genocide" by international rights watchdogs, sparking a global uproar.
UN investigators said Myanmar's top military officials should be prosecuted for genocide but the country has rejected the calls, insisting it was defending itself against armed fighters.
The UN refugee agency and other international aid agencies, however, said conditions in Rakhine state were "not yet conducive" for the Rohingyas return as they could be exposed to further reprisals on return.
Bangladesh has demanded the UN put pressure on Myanmar for the safe and dignified return of Rohingyas and their security once they return.
Rohingyas say their movement was restricted in their homeland ahead of the cleansing campaign while "fear and mistrust" had exposed them to hardship and economic vulnerability.