Myanmar police opens fire on demonstrators killing many

Myanmar police shot dead seven demonstrators and 12 were injured in troubled Rakhine State, after a local gathering celebrating an ancient Buddhist Arakan kingdom turned violent.

Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an initial agreement last November to repatriate the Rohingya, and the 30-member working group was set up last month to oversee the process.

Myanmar has agreed to accept 1,500 rohingya every week, adding that it aims to return all of them to Myanmar within two years.

"Our involvement in the process and our full access to areas of return in Myanmar can help to build confidence for all concerned, including the refugees", said Vivian Tan, UNHCR's senior regional communication officer.

According to a statement released by the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the repatriation will be completed [press release] within two years from the commencement.

The UN and various human rights organisations have said there is clear evidence of rights abuses in Myanmar, with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calling the Army's operations "ethnic cleansing" and saying there were indications of "genocide".

Some 650,000 people fled the violence, prompting a response by UN Refugee Agency. Zaw Htay said at least 500 Hindus and 500 Muslims will be in the first group to return. Rohingya say security forces, backed by hardline Rakhine mobs, torched hundreds of Rohingya villages and forced them to flee.

It's essential the return of the Rohingyas is voluntary, takes place "in safety and dignity", and allows them to return to their homes, which will require a huge investment for reconstruction because of the destruction, he said.

Myanmar officials said the length of the repatriation will depend on how quickly Bangladesh can provide documentation of refugees' previous residency and how fast applications are submitted.

Myint Kyaing, permanent secretary at Myanmar's Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, told Reuters earlier this month Myanmar would be ready to begin processing least 150 people a day through each of the two camps by January 23.

State-backed media reported that charges have been filed against lower house MP Aye Maung following a speech on Monday in which the nationalist politican attacked the government for thinking the Rakhine are "slaves" and said it was the "right time" for the community to launch an armed struggle.

  • Sylvester Abbott