Rohingya leaders in a refugee camp have charted demands they want Myanmar to meet before authorities begin the repatriation process expected to begin next week and last for two years, report agencies.
The demands have been voiced as Rohingya refugees are still continuing to flee from Myanmar into Bangladesh, a Bangladesh official said Friday. More than 100 Rohingya entered Bangladesh in the past two days, according to the official.
Hundreds of Rohingya refugees staged protests in Bangladesh on Friday against the plans to send them back to Myanmar, where a military crackdown last year sparked a mass exodus.
The refugees chanted slogans and held banners demanding citizenship and guarantees of security before they return to their home state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
The protest was staged ahead of a visit by UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee to the camps in southeastern Bangladesh where around a million of the Muslim minority are now living.
A statement issued Thursday by nearly two dozen Rohingya organisations around the world demanded security guarantees for the refugees and their property before they return. The statement said there had been "no change of attitude of the Myanmar government and its military toward Rohingya."
Under the November agreement, Rohingya will need to provide evidence of their residency in Myanmar in order to return - something many do not have.
The petition by Rohingya leaders is the latest indication of the challenges ahead for Bangladesh and Myanmar as they try to engineer the return of refugees who fear continued military operations in Rakhine State and are dismayed about the prospect of a prolonged stay in "temporary camps" in Myanmar when they go back.
A half-dozen Rohingya elders, saying they represented 40 villages from Rakhine, showed the list of demands to a Reuters reporter at the Kutupalong refugee camp, where most of the Rohingya refugees are staying.
The petition, handwritten in Burmese, said none of the Muslim Rohingyas would return to mainly Buddhist Myanmar unless the demands were met.
The petition, which has still to be finalised, demanded the Myanmar government publicly announce it is giving Rohingya long-denied citizenship and inclusion on a list of the country's recognised ethnic groups. It asks that land once occupied by the refugees be returned to them and their homes, mosques and schools rebuilt.
It wants the military held accountable for alleged killings, looting and rape, and the release from jails of "innocent Rohingya" picked up in counter-insurgency operations.
It also wants Myanmar to stop listing people with their photographs as "terrorists" in state media and on government Facebook pages.
Myanmar state newspapers this week issued a supplement listing the names and photos of alleged members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army or ARSA, whose attacks on security posts on Aug 25 triggered a sweeping counter-insurgency operation.
The United Nations has described the Myanmar military operations in the northern part of Rakhine as a classic case of ethnic cleansing.
The military says it has only conducted legitimate operations and denies there have been cases of sexual assault.
But the military said last week soldiers had killed 10 captured Muslim "terrorists" during insurgent attacks at the beginning of September, after Buddhist villagers had forced the captured men into a grave the villagers had dug.
It was a rare acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the Myanmar military during its operations in the western state of Rakhine.
ARSA said in a statement last week the 10 Rohingya in the mass grave were "innocent civilians" and not members of their group.
The Rohingya elders Reuters spoke to said they were still finalising their list of demands before showing it to Bangladesh authorities and to aid agencies administering the camps.
They said the 40 village leaders they discussed the petition with represent the interests of all Rohingya at the camp, but that could not be independently verified and aid agencies were unable to comment pending formal issuance of the petition.
Myanmar Police Colonel Myo Thu Soe, spokesman for the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry, told Reuters on Thursday "there's no clearance operation going on in the villages".
But, he added, "security forces are still trying to take control of the area" in northern Rakhine. He declined to elaborate.
Rights groups and the UN say any repatriation must be voluntary.
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