Tillerson finally declares situation in Myanmar ethnic cleansing

The pope's advocacy for the Rohingya has enhanced Pope Francis' image in the Muslim world and raised global pressure on the government of Myanmar, said Khairudin Aljunied, an expert on Islam in Southeast Asia at Georgetown University.

"After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya", Tillerson said in a statement released Wednesday.

Sayed Hussein, 55, has been at Kutupalong camp for two months and said he would be willing to return if they had equal opportunities.

The two countries, however, agreed to form a joint working group at the Foreign Secretary-level to start the repatriation process. [They] will take back [Rohingya].

Later, Mahmood told reporters that this is the "first step".

She said her government has taken various measures to resolve the crisis that unfolded in south eastern Bangladeshi district of Cox's Bazar bordering Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Ms. Suu Kyi's office called Thursday's agreement a "win-win situation for both countries", saying the issue should be "resolved amicably through bilateral negotiations". But the scope of the repatriation - such as how many Rohingyas will be allowed back - and the timeline remain unclear.

Rohingya refugees sit in front of their makeshift shelter in Balukhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on November 23, 2017. "Families live side by side, some families are five, but some families are up to eight and more".

Rohingyas entered Bangladesh over the last one year following military crackdowns in Rakhine State. But an hour's drive from the coast, the refugees squeeze together in densely packed settlements.

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Those conditions have made many Rohingya cautious or unwilling to return to Myanmar. "Some tell us that they've walked for six days, they've walked for 10 days with just the possessions that they have". He said he was unauthorised to provide more details. One in four children there suffer from malnutrition, according to the WFP.

Mr. Sullivan, who visited the Rohingya camps in Bangladesh in May (when the numbers were much smaller) and then again in September, says he would not be able to tie the dearth of services for Rohingya women and girls to cuts in United States funding, "although it makes sense to me", he adds.

Rights groups have raised concerns about the process, including where the minority will be resettled after hundreds of their villages were razed, and how their safety will be ensured in a country where anti-Muslim sentiment is surging.

But Miles says she's skeptical the agreement will address those challenges. For most of the refugees, they fled without any papers. It is significant that Myanmar has accepted that these people have been living in Myanmar and therefore have some right of return.

Some 620 thousand Rohingya Muslims fled the violence launched in the wake of Rohingya militant attacks.

They have also been systematically oppressed by the government, which stripped the minority of citizenship and severely restricts their movement, as well as their access to basic services.

Tensions erupted into bouts of bloodshed in 2012 that pushed more than 100,000 Rohingya into grim displacement camps.

The group called on Myanmar to institute an action plan to combat discrimination, reform discriminatory laws and policies, and make sure that those responsible for crimes against humanity are held accountable. We hope to sign the deal tomorrow (Thursday).

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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