Myanmar, Bangladesh set up working group for Rohingya return

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DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Myanmar and Bangladesh set up a joint working group on Tuesday to oversee the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims who fled violence in Myanmar, but the start of their return is likely to be delayed.

Under an agreement signed in Dhaka, the 30-member working group is to develop procedures to begin the voluntary return, resettlement and reintegration of Rohingya refugees.

More than 630,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar's military launched a crackdown in August following attacks on police posts by a militant group.

The two countries agreed last month that the repatriation would start around Jan. 21, but a Bangladesh foreign ministry official who attended Tuesday's meeting said it would be delayed by a few weeks or so.

Human rights groups warn that the Rohingya may face continued violence if they are sent back.

In the November agreement, Myanmar pledged to take measures to halt the outflow of Rohingya to Bangladesh, restore normalcy in Rakhine state and encourage those who left Myanmar to return voluntarily and safely to their original places of residence or to a safe place of their choice.

Officials said the November pact follows a formula set in a 1992 repatriation agreement signed by the two nations after an earlier spasm of violence. Under that agreement, Rohingya were required to present residency documents, which few have, before being allowed to return to Myanmar.

The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar has refused to accept Rohingya Muslims as a minority group, even though they have been living in the country for generations. Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, denying them almost all rights and rendering them stateless.

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