MYANMAR (OBSERVATORY) – A Myanmar minister expressed concern Thursday over the “very poor conditions” in the neighboring Rohingya refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh and said the process of restoring the Muslim minority should begin as soon as possible before the monsoon.
The United Nations and rights groups say Myanmar’s army operation in the northwest in August caused some 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh. Most live in squalid camps made of bamboo and plastic over hills around the Cox’s Bazar region in southern Bangladesh.
Coroners from the Rohingya spoke of widespread murder, rape and burning. The United States and the United Nations have described the military campaign as ethnic cleansing, a charge Myanmar denies.
“Who saw the best of those who heard and we saw all the people in the camps in very poor conditions,” Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye told reporters in Yangon after a two-day visit to the camps near Cox’s Bazaar.
“Our main concern is to start the repatriation process as soon as possible because the monsoon rains will start soon and we are very concerned about those who fled to Bangladesh,” he said.
Myanmar said on Saturday it had received the first Rohingya family. But the Bangladeshi government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said they were not aware of it.