YANGON - Myanmar is "doing everything on schedule" to repatriate more than 700,000 Rohingya, said a top official less than a day after the prime minister of neighboring Bangladesh, which is sheltering the refugees, accused the Buddhist nation of delaying the Muslims' return.
"We are proceeding repatriation process step by step as scheduled," Win Myat Aye, Myanmar's minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, told VOA's Burmese Service. He is overseeing the repatriation of the Rohingya.
The Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after what the U.S. State Department found were targeted attacks on their villages by Myanmar's military.
Myanmar has said the attacks were a legitimate response to August 2017 strikes against security outposts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, an armed Rohingya group in Rakhine state. Rohingya see themselves as natives of Myanmar's Rakhine state, but Myanmar has denied them citizenship and the rights that carries for decades.
Saying that the refugees overburdened her nation, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday accused Myanmar of delaying the Rohingya's repatriation. "We set up a committee, a joint committee, everything is set," she said. "Every time, they try to find out some new excuse."
In an exclusive interview Saturday with VOA's Bangla service, Hasina expressed her hope the Rohingya crisis eventually would be solved. She urged the international community to create pressure on the Myanmar government to create a safe and congenial atmosphere, and to take back the Rohingya refugees as soon as possible.
Win Myat Aye countered by saying his government was "implementing comprehensively in every detail in accordance with the agreement. We left nothing from the agreement's list. We want to do it as soon as possible. It is very hard to maintain the reception camps, which we built for returnees, because there is no one living over there."
He accused Bangladesh of failing to distribute necessary forms to the Rohingya, and once that is completed, repatriation "can be managed systematically."
Myanmar is "ready and eager to receive refugees. It is entirely up to Bangladeshi side to start the process," he said.
The back-and-forth accusations came as the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday backed a resolution to establish an "independent mechanism" for bringing about criminal prosecutions of the Myanmar generals that a U.N. fact-finding group said led the campaign against the Rohingya.
Human rights groups and Rohingya activists have estimated thousands died in last year's security crackdown. Myanmar denies its forces were involved in atrocities.
On Monday, during sideline discussions on the crises of the displaced Rohingya at the annual U.N. General Assembly, the United States said it would contribute an additional $185 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar and Bangladesh.