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Myanmar prepared to clear out Rohingyas before rebel attacks: Bangladesh

A.H. Mahmud Ali

Dhaka, Oct 11 (UITV/IANS) - The Bangladesh Foreign Minister on Tuesday said that Myanmar was prepared to clear the area inhabited by the Rohingyas at least a month before a rebel attack against security posts on August 25, which led to a military campaign and humanitarian crisis in the region.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, deemed a terrorist organisation by the Myanmar government, launched a series of attacks on police and military posts in late August, which led to a military offensive in response.

"Though Myanmar security outposts were attacked on August 25, Army was strengthening its force in northern Rakhine one month before," A.H. Mahmud Ali said while speaking at a programme organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies.

"In response to the August 25 attack, Myanmar Army, according to their previous preparation, conducted huge raids in Maungdaw, Rathedaung and Buthidaung for area clearance," he added.

More than half a million Rohingyas have fled Rakhine since the offensive started, amid allegations of civilian killings and burning of villages by witnesses and international organisations, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Ali said that there was information about 3,000 Rohingyas being killed in Rakhine and also referred to a Human Rights Watch report which said that at least 284 villages were destroyed.

The minister's statement came a day after he reiterated the government's willingness to cooperate with Myanmar on security issues and proposed a visit by Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal to Myanmar at the end of this month, aimed at finding a solution to the crisis.

Last week, Kyaw Tint Swe, Adviser to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had met the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister in Dhaka and presented a proposal for repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar.

The two sides agreed to set up a joint working group to coordinate the repatriation process of the Rohingyas, a Muslim community which has been denied citizenship by Myanmar and has been largely ignored by Bangladesh -- where 300,000 members of the community already lived before the current crisis -- until now.