Myanmar junta leader casts doubt on Rohingya return

25 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing cast doubt on the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh in comments made in his first interview since taking power in a Feb. 1 coup, reports Reuters.

Min Aung Hlaing was asked by Chinese-language Phoenix television whether the Muslims could be allowed back to Rakhine State - from where most fled an army crackdown in 2017 that UN investigators said had “genocidal intent”.

“If it doesn’t comply with Myanmar’s laws, what else is there to consider? I don’t believe there is any country in the world that would go beyond their own country’s refugee laws to accept refugees,” Min Aung Hlaing responded, according to a transcript of the interview.

When asked whether that meant vocal international appeals on behalf of the Rohingya were to no avail, he nodded.

Min Aung Hlaing, who headed the army in 2017 when some 700,000 Rohingya fled from advancing troops, reiterated the view of nationalists in Buddhist-majority Myanmar that the Rohingya are not one of its ethnic groups.

He said the term Rohingya had only emerged since independence from Britain in 1948.

“After we gained our independence, the census also registered the words ‘Bengali’, ‘Pakistani’ and ‘Chittagong’, but never the word ‘Rohingya’, thus we never accepted it,” Min Aung Hlaing said.

Rohingya have been widely referred to as Bengali by Myanmar authorities - implying that they are outsiders from Bangladesh, although some can trace their roots in Myanmar back for centuries.