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Myanmar Holds Repatriation Talks with Rohingya Refugees

Myanmar's permanent foreign secretary, U Myint Thu, speaks during a meeting with representatives of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, July 28, 2019.

A Myanmar government delegation has met with representatives of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh to discuss creating conditions for their safe repatriation, officials said Sunday.

Myanmar's permanent foreign secretary, U Myint Thu, led a 10-member delegation for the weekend talks in refugee camps in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar region. He said he told the refugees about the preparations being made for their repatriation and agreed to continue talks with them.

"We will continue to discuss with the Bangladesh government at the ministerial level as well as the working level at the joint working group,'' U Myint Thu told reporters. "I will be meeting (Monday) with the Bangladesh foreign minister in Dhaka and then we will continue to discuss further on the repatriation process and at the ministerial level there will be a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly ... "

He said the Myanmar delegation will bring along representatives of ASEAN, a grouping of Southeast Asian nations, for the next round of talks with the refugees.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be "Bengalis'' from Bangladesh even though their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

The long-simmering Rohingya crisis exploded in August 2017 when Myanmar's military launched what it called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state in response to an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign led to the mass Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh and to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

The violence caused more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh and elsewhere for safety.