Myanmar has made “minimal” preparations for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees sheltering in neighboring Bangladesh, according to an Australian think-tank, despite the country saying it is ready to start repatriation.
More than 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee northern Arakan state in western Myanmar during a 2017 military-led crackdown the United Nations has said included mass killings and gang-rapes executed with “genocidal intent”. Almost 400 Rohingya villages were burned to the ground during the violence.
While authorities have promised to resettle the refugees, analysis of satellite imagery shows “no sign of reconstruction” in the overwhelming majority of their former settlements while, in some areas, destruction of residential buildings has continued, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) said in a report released late on Tuesday.
“The continued destruction of residential areas across 2018 and 2019 – clearly identifiable through our longitudinal satellite analysis – raises serious questions about the willingness of the Myanmar government to facilitate a safe and dignified repatriation process,” Nathan Ruser, one of the researchers at ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre, said in a statement.
Spokesmen for the Myanmar government did not answer calls seeking comment. Kyaw Swar Tun, deputy director of the Rakhine General Administration Department, declined to comment.
Myanmar has repeatedly said it is ready to take back refugees, blaming Bangladesh for failed efforts to kick-start returns.