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Burma and Bangladesh set up working group for Rohingya return

Burma and Bangladesh have set up a joint working group to oversee the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims who fled violence in Burma, but the start of their return is likely to be delayed.

Under an agreement signed in Dhaka, the 30-member working group is to develop procedures to begin the voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration of Rohingya refugees.

More than 630,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Burma's military launched a crackdown in August following attacks on police posts by a militant group.

The two countries agreed last month that the repatriation would start around January 21, but a Bangladesh foreign ministry official who attended Tuesday's meeting said it would be delayed by a few weeks.

Human rights groups warn that the Rohingya may face continued violence if they are sent back.

In the November agreement, Burma pledged to take measures to halt the outflow of Rohingya to Bangladesh, restore normality in Rakhine state and encourage those who left Burma to return voluntarily and safely to their original places of residence or to a safe place of their choice.

Officials said the November pact follows a formula set in a 1992 repatriation agreement signed by the two nations after an earlier spasm of violence.

Under that agreement, Rohingya were required to present residency documents, which few have, before being allowed to return to Burma.

The government of Buddhist-majority Burma has refused to accept Rohingya Muslims as a minority group, even though they have been living in the country for generations.

Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless.


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