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Myanmar, Bangladesh ink Rohingya return deal

Rohingya refugee children wait for food at a food distribution center in Thankhali refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia on Nov 23. An estimated 618,000 Muslim Rohingya have fl ed mainly Buddhist Myanmar since a military crackdown was launched in Rakhine in August triggered an exodus, straining resources in the impoverished country. (AFP)

YANGON, Nov 23, (Agencies): Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a deal on Thursday paving the way for the possible repatriation of Rohingya Muslims who have fl ed violence in Rakhine state, officials said, as global pressure mounts over the refugee crisis. More than 620,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh since August, running from a Myanmar military crackdown that Washington said this week clearly constitutes “ethnic cleansing”.

After weeks of tussling over the terms of repatriation, the two sides inked a deal in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on Thursday following talks between Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Dhaka’s Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali. “Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding today,” Myint Kyaing, the permanent secretary of Myanmar’s Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, confirmed to AFP. He said he was unauthorised to provide more details.

Meanwhile, the US labelling of a Myanmar army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing” is unhelpful and could aggravate the situation, Russia’s ambassador to the southeast Asian nation said on Thursday, criticising “excessive external intervention”. Rights groups have accused the military in mostly Buddhist Myanmar of carrying out mass rape and other atrocities during a ferocious military sweep launched in late August in retaliation for attacks by Rohingya Muslim militants in Rakhine State.

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