'The return of one family is not Rohingya repatriation'

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Myanmar says it has repatriated first Rohingya family despite UN warnings

Burma on Saturday repatriated the first Rohingya family from almost 700,000 refugees who have fled to Bangladesh, after months of fraught talks with Dhaka and amid the United Nations' warnings that the country is not ready for their return.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar's military imposed a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya living in Rakhine State last August in what has been described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing" - an accusation Myanmar denies.

Reuters reported that Myanmar has denied almost all allegations, saying it waged a legitimate counter-insurgency operation.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Government of Bangladesh finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Geneva on April 13 relating to voluntary returns of Rohingya refugees once conditions in Myanmar are conducive.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya fled Myanmar by sea following an outbreak of sectarian violence in Rakhine in 2012.

In a statement, the government said, five members of a Muslim family came to the Taungpyoletwea reception centre in Rakhine yesterday.

It reported Saturday's returnees were provided the with National Verification Cards, a form of ID that falls short of citizenship and has been rejected by Rohingya leaders.

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Rohingya who have been repatriated in the past have been forced to live in camps in Burma. The most recent one, carrying 70 Rohingya reportedly set out from Burma toward Malaysia on Thursday, the same day the family of five returned to Rakhine.

More than 670,000 Rohingya fled violence in Myanmar since last August, joining an estimated 200,000 Rohingya who have sought shelter in Bangladesh, arriving in waves over the past decades.

Many Rohingya refugees say they fear returning to a country where they saw their relatives murdered by soldiers.

Separately, Andrea Giorgetta from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) told AFP that the repatriation announcement is "a public relations exercise in an attempt to deflect attention from the need for accountability for crimes committed in Rakhine State".

Last week, the most senior United Nations official to visit Myanmar this year, the assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Ursula Mueller, said conditions in Myanmar were not conducive to the return of the refugees.

According to the Rohingya Blogger, however, the individuals in the photos are the family members of the administrator of Taung Pyo Latya, the designated entry point for returning refugees. Many refuse to return without a guarantee of basic rights and citizenship.

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