Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said her country is ready to repatriate ‘verified’ Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. But it was not immediately clear how many Rohingya would qualify to return.
The Nobel peace laureate came up with this assertion while addressing the nation for the first time over the Rohingya issue on Tuesday, but she offered no concrete solutions to stop what the UN calls "ethnic cleansing", AFP reports.
Suu Kyi told that Myanmar stood ready "at any time" to repatriate refugees in accordance with a "verification" process agreed with Bangladesh in the early 1990s.
Those "verified as refugees" will be "accepted without any problems and with full assurance of their security and access to humanitarian aid", Suu Kyi said.
Suu Kyi's pledge to repatriate the refugees "is new and significant", said Richard Horsey, an independent analyst based in Myanmar, explaining it would in principle allow for the return of those who can prove residence in Myanmar -- rather than citizenship.
"However, there continues to be a live crisis in the north of Rakhine," he said.
But the subject of their claims to live in Myanmar is at the heart of a toxic debate about the Muslim group, who are denied citizenship by the state and considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Myanmar's government has previously said it will not take back people linked with "terrorists" and suggested that many of those who fled had set fire to their own villages before leaving.
In an address delivered entirely in English, Suu Kyi insisted army "clearance operations" finished on September 5 without any further militant attacks.
Communal violence has torn through Rakhine state since Rohingya militants staged deadly attacks on police posts on August 25. Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya driven out of mainly Buddhist Myanmar into Bangladesh.
In less than a month just under half of Rakhine's one-million-strong Rohingya minority has poured into Bangladesh, where they now languish in one of the world's largest refugee camps.
Suu Kyi has been strongly criticised by the international community for failing to speak up publicly for the stateless Rohingya or to urge restraint on the military.
In a 30-minute televised speech Tuesday she reached out to her critics, deploying the soaring rhetoric that once made her a darling of the global rights community.