Bangladesh, Myanmar plan Rohingya repatriation in 2 years

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Seven ethnic Rakhine Buddhists died after Myanmar police opened fire on a crowd trying to seize a government office, officials said Wednesday, in fresh violence in a febrile state already scarred by ethnic and religious hatred.

Burma and Bangladesh signed an agreement in November to repatriate Rohingya and set up a working group last month to oversee the repatriation of people who had fled violence in the northern part of Rakhine state in the west of Burma.

Many have questions whether Rohingya would return to Myanmar under the current circumstances, and whether Myanmar would accept them and allow them to live freely. "Bangladesh and Myanmar recently discussed and finalised the text (of the agreement) to facilitate the return of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh", he said.

The UN and rights groups have urged the Burmese government to ensure the safe and voluntary return of the Rohingya refugees.

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.

Some 650,000 people fled the violence, prompting a response by UN Refugee Agency.

Rakhine mobs stand accused of aiding the military in using murder, rape and arson against the Rohingya - 655,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh since August - in violence the United Nations and USA have condemned as ethnic cleansing.

The group, however, appreciated Bangladesh for hosting over 655,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar although the country does not recognise a lot of them as refugees. Zaw Htay said at least 500 Hindus and 500 Muslims will be in the first group to return.

"Myanmar has reiterated its commitment to stop outflow of Myanmar residents to Bangladesh", it said.

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.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from August 25 to September 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

The military denies ethnic cleansing, saying its security forces had mounted legitimate counter-insurgency clearance operations. This is a clear case of excessive use of force in violation of the right to life.