Foreign Minister Taro Kono urges Suu Kyi to ensure safe return of Rohingya refugees

Kyodo

Foreign Minister Taro Kono asked Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, on Friday to ensure the “safe and voluntary repatriation and resettlement” of members of the Rohingya ethnic group who have fled to Bangladesh from the strife-torn state of Rakhine.

“Japan wants to actively support Myanmar’s efforts,” including in Rakhine, he said at a joint news conference after their meeting in Naypyitaw.

At the outset of the talks, Kono said Japan plans to give roughly $20 million more to Myanmar to improve humanitarian conditions in Rakhine, subject to Diet approval.

“We thank Japan for thinking not just of the short term, but also about what it can do in the long term,” Suu Kyi said at the news conference.

More than 600,000 Rohingya, who are not recognized by the Myanmar government as one of its many ethnic groups, have fled to Bangladesh since August last year, when violence between armed Rohingya and Myanmar security forces prompted a crackdown.

Myanmar and Bangladesh reached a deal in November last year on repatriating the refugees.

The Japanese government decided earlier Friday to give ¥330 million ($3 million) in emergency grant aid to Myanmar to assist with rebuilding living conditions for “displaced persons returning to Myanmar from Bangladesh” in accordance with that agreement.

Asked about the Wednesday’s admission by the Myanmar military that its security forces and Buddhist villagers killed 10 captured Rohingya during clashes last year, Suu Kyi stressed the importance of the rule of law and said the military will take responsibility.

Friday’s meeting was the first between Kono and Suu Kyi since the former took up his post in August last year.

In November, Kono visited a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, southeastern Bangladesh, where Rohingya had fled.