November 18, 2017
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Myanmar preparing detention camps for returning Rohingyas: HRW

Bangkok, Oct 23 (efe-epa).- Even as the United Nations hosted a donor conference Monday to raise more funds for the Rohingyas, Myanmar is allegedly building around seven detention camps for the refugees, who fled to Bangladesh and who are expected to be repatriated following a verification process.

According to the UN, more than 600,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when the Myanmar army launched a military offensive in the Rakhine state after a group of Rohingya rebels launched a series of attacks on multiple government posts.

"The bigger concern at this point is the government's apparent plan to create up to as many as 7 camps for returning Rohingya (...) we're concerned that these will become open air detention camps," Phil Robertson, the Asia deputy director of nonprofit Human Rights Watch told EFE, adding that it was also unclear how the verification process would be conducted.

"The Myanmar government has said very little about what evidence they will demand to prove the person was residing in Myanmar and has the right to go back - and this may be problematic because many Rohingyas have lost all their documents when their houses were torched by the Burmese security forces," Robertson told EFE.

Robertson also warned that the camps might be used to limit the freedom of movement of the Rohingyas and restrict their access to basic necessities, including food, medical services and education.

Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of the government, and who had been criticized severely for her silence on the issue and subsequent backing of the actions of the Myanmar army, had proposed a repatriation process for the Rohingya refugees in a televised address.

According to the Myanmar government, more than 400 people have died so far in the ongoing crisis.

Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing had recently accused the media of exaggerating the conflict and rejected accusations of human rights abuse by the army.

Following the subsequent exodus of the Rohingyas, the Myanmar government had also confiscated the abandoned land and announced plans to build houses for the country's ethnic minorities, that exclude the Rohingyas.

Myanmar and Bangladesh had signed an agreement for the return of the refugees in 1993 after a similar conflict had forced 250,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh, but most of the displaced Rohingyas chose not to return.

More than one million Rohingyas, who have been facing growing persecution since the outbreak of sectarian violence in 2012 that killed at least 160 people and confined 120,000 to resettlement camps, lived in Rakhine before the current crisis erupted.

Myanmar denies citizenship to Rohingyas although many of them claim to have lived in the country through generations.

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