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    Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan talks during the press meeting about the commission's final report in Yangon on 24 August 2017. Photo: Mizzima

    Former UN chief Kofi Annan urged the Security Council on Friday to push for the return to Myanmar of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohyingas who have been driven out in an army campaign.

    Annan, who led an advisory commission to the Myanmar government, said world powers must work with the country's military and civilian leaders to end the refugee crisis.

    The Security Council is weighing action, possibly a resolution laying out demands, but diplomats have said China, a supporter of Myanmar's former ruling junta, and Russia are opposed to such a measure.

    "I hope the resolution that comes out urges the government to really press ahead and create conditions that would allow the refugees to return with dignity and with a sense of security," Annan told reporters after a closed-door meeting with the council.

    "They should not be returned to camps. They should help rebuild," he said.

    More than 500,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, have since late August crossed into Bangladesh, fleeing military operations in Myanmar's Rakhine state that the United Nations has denounced as ethnic cleansing.

    Myanmar authorities say they are rooting out Rohingya militants following attacks on police posts in late August.

    The issue of the return of the Rohingyas is shaping up as a major hurdle.

    A recent report by the UN human rights office accused Myanmar of seeking to permanently expel the Rohingya, by planting land mines at the border with Bangladesh. 

    "The international community is now beginning to put pressure on the military," Annan said, adding that "military-to-military talks" were aimed at pressing Myanmar to rein in its operations.

    He called on the council to agree with Myanmar on a "roadmap" and warned that without action "we are going to have a long-term festering problem" in the region that "can be very serious, down the line."

    In late August, Annan presented the final report of the advisory commission on Rakhine state that he chaired at the request of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    The report called for granting citizenship and other rights to the Rohingyas, who are stateless and have long faced discrimination in the Buddhist-majority nation.

    The UN's top political affairs chief, Jeffrey Feltman, traveled to Myanmar on Friday for talks.


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    Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan. Photo: Asaduzzaman Khan/Facebook

    Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine Vice-Chairman Dr. Win Myat Aye said that they would receive back refugees who had fled immediately as soon as they had an reached agreement with Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan who will come to Myanmar in the last week of October.

    The two countries agreed to receive those who were fleeing to Bangladesh after violent attacks in northern Rakhine under a 1992/93 agreement reached between the two countries.

    Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan is coming to Myanmar on October 23 in order to discuss with his counterpart some points concerning the repatriation of these refugees.

    Dr. Win Myat Aye said, “We heard that Bangladesh had sent her representatives for renegotiation on the repatriation of refugees but I don’t know what their proposals are in detail. We will receive these refugees immediately as soon as we have reached an agreement with them in the last week of October.”

    He added that Myanmar was ready to implement a repatriation plan after the Myanmar government had reached agreement with Bangladesh though the results of negotiation that cannot be predicted.

    Reportedly, the Rakhine State Government is compiling a detailed list of people who fled to Bangladesh for repatriation by visiting Bangladesh although they have a previous list of those people.

    Similarly Defence Services Commander in Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said that receiving Bengalis was subject to verification and also to the outcome of negotiations with the Bangladesh government.

    Minister of the State Counsellor Office Kyaw Tint Swe visited Dhaka, Bangladesh earlier and he agreed the repatriation of these refugees to Myanmar during this tour. 

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    A Member of the Bangladesh Border Guard patrols the border near Myanmar in Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 04 October 2017. Photo: Abir Abdullah/EPA-EFE

    Bangladesh has tightened security along its western border with India amid concern that hundreds of Rohingya Muslim refugees could be pushed into its territory, officials said Sunday.

    Patrols have been stepped up along the frontier with India's West Bengal state, where border guards say they have been ordered in recent weeks to steer Rohingya into Bangladesh.

    Tariqul Hakim, an area commander of the Border Guard Bangladesh, said Rohingya could be seen gathering opposite the Putkhali frontier post, where just a narrow river divides the two countries.

    "We have stepped up surveillance and patrols so that no Rohingya can be pushed into our territory," Lieutenant Colonel Hakim told AFP.

    There are 40,000 Rohingya in India but the Indian government wants them deported, telling a top court last month they pose a security threat.

    Hakim said Rohingya communities inside India could be trying to reunite with their families in southeast Bangladesh, where more than half a million Rohingya refugees have arrived since August from Myanmar.

    An estimated 536,000 refugees have crossed since August 25, fleeing violence in western Myanmar described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing.

    An Indian border guard in West Bengal told AFP that patrols had previously turned over all Rohingya intercepted at the frontier to local police.

    "But now our directions are very clear, and that is to push all Rohingya into Bangladesh," he told AFP on condition of anonymity.

    "We are trying to accomplish our task with active local support".

    A Bangladesh border guard official, Abdul Hossain, said villages along the frontier were on high alert, with newly-arrived refugees saying they had been encouraged by Indian guards to cross the border.

    "We've been patrolling the border day and night to prevent their entry. Local villagers have also joined us in the patrols," Hossain told AFP.

    Local council member Nazrul Islam said more than a dozen Rohingya who crossed at a southwestern part of the frontier Friday reported Indian guards opening a section of barbed wire to allow them to pass easily.

    Bangladesh already hosts at least 800,000 Rohingya, including those who fled earlier crackdowns in Myanmar, and does not want to accept any from India.

    It is trying to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar. But the stateless Muslim minority are reviled in the mainly Buddhist nation and considered to be illegal immigrants.

    The unprecedented influx of refugees has put immense pressure on Bangladeshi authorities and charities, who have described the crisis as one of the world's most pressing humanitarian emergencies.

    © AFP

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    Bangladesh coastguard hand over recovered bodies to local Bangladeshi locals after recovering it from the Naf river estuary near Shah Porir Dwip in Teknaf on October 16, 2017. Photo: Jashim Mahmud/AFP

    At least 10 people drowned and dozens more are missing after a boat packed with Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh sank on Monday, the latest victims of a half-million-strong exodus sparked by an army crackdown in Myanmar.

    The boat was carrying an estimated 50 people when it went down in the estuary of the Naf river that divides the two countries, Border Guard Bangladesh area commander Lieutenant Colonel S.M. Ariful Islam told AFP.

    Nearly 200 Rohingya are known to have drowned over the last six weeks making the perilous crossing to Bangladesh, many in small wooden fishing boats that are dangerously overloaded.

    Islam said 21 survivors had swum to safety after the small fishing trawler overturned, and coast and border guards were conducting a search and rescue operation in the Naf river.

    Sheikh Ashrafuzzaman, a senior police officer, told AFP authorities had recovered the bodies of six children and four women.

    "The accident happened during early morning prayers," said Shams Uddin, a resident who witnessed the disaster. "I think the boat overturned as the boatmen tried to reach the shore against the returning currents."

    Another border guard told AFP the boat was just 200 yards from the Bangladesh coast when it sank in rough waters.

    Fazlul Haq, a local official, said the boat was owned by a Bangladeshi villager who had made large sums of money ferrying Rohingya into the country.

    He said the small fishing trawlers were highly vulnerable to accidents as they approached the shore, where they are often buffeted by large waves.

    Refugees are often charged exorbitant fees for the trip.

    The latest accident came a week after another boat packed with Rohingya refugees capsized in the area, killing at least 34 people including  many children.

    © AFP

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