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Thein Sein postpones Bangladesh talks

Burma’s President Thein Sein has postponed a three-day visit to Bangladesh to discuss the refugee situation on the Bangladesh-Burma border following sectarian unrest in Burma’s Rakhine State for the past month. He was scheduled to visit on July 15.

Burmese President Thein Sein Photo: President's officeA new date will be announced soon, the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes told reporters.

Quayes said that a joint commission will be formed to deal with bilateral issues including Rohingya repatriation, bolstering trade, and air transport and road connectivity, which are likely to be discussed.

The official hinted Thein Sein’s visit might take place after the Muslims' holy month of Ramadan that begins in the third week of July.

Apart from Thein Sein's visit, both sides discussed the Rohingya repatriation issue in the meeting between Mijarul Quayes and Burma’s visiting  Deputy Foreign Minister Mong Mint.

Quayes said Burma agreed in principle to repatriate both registered and unregistered Rohingya immigrants in Bangladesh, if they are determined to be citizens of Burma.

According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, more than 28,000 registered refugees are currently staying at two camps in Bangladesh in addition to 300,000 to 500,000 more unregistered Rohingya immigrants.

Bangladesh, which shares a 168,-kilometre border with Burma, closed the border in early June and has refused to accept people fleeing the violence in Burma.

Mizzima reported in June that Thein Sein would hold talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Zillur Rahman, with agenda items including connectivity, cooperation in the energy sector, establishing direct road and air links, enhancing trade, cooperation in education and tourism, and the Rohingya issue.

The Rohingya issue is likely to be thorny. “We are not interested in more people coming to Bangladesh,” Dipu Moni told the media in June, after it closed its border facing western Rakhine State in Burma. She said Bangladesh is a densely populated country and cannot afford a fresh influx of regugees.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled persecution in Burma in the past three decades, the vast majority to Bangladesh in the 1990s. Others have sought refuge in Malaysia and Thailand.

In June, the the U.N. Refugee Agency and a host of international countries called for Bangladesh to keep its border open.

The latest unrest flared after a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered by a group of Rohingya Muslim men on May 28, which set off revenge murders and the burning of thousands of homes and businesses.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in sections of Rakhine State on June 10, imposing a dusk-to-dawn curfew.
Last Updated ( Monday, 02 July 2012 15:36 )  

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