Myanmar has rejected an offer by China to facilitate a visit by a group of Rohingya refugees to its Rakhine state to investigate the situation there ahead of a possible repatriation from temporary camps across the border in Bangladesh, a senior Myanmar foreign ministry official confirmed Thursday.
Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters on Wednesday that Myanmar’s government had dismissed the proposal, originally floated by Li Jiming, the new Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, during talks with Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar last month and formally discussed during a meeting last week between Myanmar, Chinese and Bangladeshi delegates on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
On Thursday, Aung Ko, the director general of the political affairs department for Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told RFA’s Myanmar Service his government had never agreed to the offer and is waiting for Bangladesh to “allow” the refugees to return to the border, whereupon they will be accepted following individual assessments.
“We never agreed to their suggestion, even though the media reported it as a formal proposal, and our position has not changed,” he said, calling the offer “one-sided.”
“We will stick to the bilateral agreement to accept returning refugees after they are assessed … We can’t do anything, as the other side hasn’t allowed the refugees to return yet. We have made all the necessary preparations for repatriation, but it will work only if we have the cooperation from the other side. The conditions are the same as before.”
Aung Ko did not provide a reason for why Myanmar’s government does not want the Rohingya refugees to visit Rakhine state or explain why it is “one sided.”