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Myanmar says it has verified fewer than 400 Rohingya for repatriation

YANGON – Myanmar has only been able to verify 374 Rohingya Muslim refugees for possible repatriation from Bangladesh, officials said on Wednesday, blaming their neighbor for not providing the correct information about the refugees.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar after militant attacks on Aug. 25 sparked a crackdown led by security forces in the western Rakhine state that the United Nations and United States have said constituted ethnic cleansing.

The administration of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has sought to counter the allegations by forging ahead with development in Rakhine and by readying reception centers and a camp for returnees.

The two countries reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but repatriation has not begun, with stateless Rohingya, who face restrictions on their movements in Myanmar, still crossing the border.

Myint Thu, permanent secretary at Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said officials had checked documents handed over by Bangladesh in February relating to 8,032 refugees.

“Out of 8,032, we verified 374. These 374 will be the first batch of the repatriation,” Myint Thu said at a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw.

“They can come back when it’s convenient for them.”

It was unclear whether the 374 people had agreed to return to Myanmar.

Myanmar was unable to confirm whether the rest of the refugees had previously lived in the country, he said, because some documents did not include fingerprints and individual photographs.

The documents were “not in line with our agreement”, police Brigadier-General Win Tun said at the same news conference.

To read more: REUTERS