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The UNHCR rejected calls from Burma’s president to resettle the country’s Rohingya minority group on Thursday as the Rakine Nationalities Development Party backed the leader’s plan.
“The resettlement programs organised by UNHCR are for refugees who are fleeing a country to another, in very specific circumstances. Obviously, it’s not related to this situation,” said UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres, according to an AP report.
Guterres remarks come a day after a Burmese government website posted a press statement regarding the UN official’s 11 July meeting with the Thein Sein.
According to the presidential office’s statement, Thein Sein told Guterres: “Burma will take responsibility for its ethnic nationalities but it is not at all possible to recognise the illegal border-crossing Rohingyas who are not an ethnic [group] in Burma.”
Thein Sein also said the government was prepared to hand over the Rohingyas to the UNHCR and then resettle the ethnic group in any third country “that are willing to take them”.
While the UNHCR dismissed the president’s radical plan, the RNDP backed Thein Sein’s statements.
“We have been asking for thorough verification in accordance with the 1982 Myanmar Citizen Law and to have the people who illegally came into our country stay in refugee camps,” said the RNDP’s leader Dr Aye Maung during an interview with DVB.
“Just like refugees in other countries, feed them with the UNHRC’s support and there’ll be third countries who sympathise with them and are willing to provide them with citizenship in their countries.”
The party head went on to say that the country needed a ‘National Security Law’ to prevent terrorists from ‘seeping’ into the Burma.
“We need to amend the citizenship law via discussions with respective parliament representatives to make it more specific and strict,” said Aye Maung.
On Thursday, security forces briefly detained two RNDP members in Arakan state’s Mrauk-U township after the duo went around town urging Arakanese nationals who owned rice mills to only sell their goods to Arakanese people.
Mrauk-U township RNDP’s deputy-chairman Aye Maung Than and Ba Tin were arrested and held in custody yesterday evening by the police and army.
After their arrest, hundreds of locals reportedly gathered in front of the police station demanding their release.
The RNDP members were bailed out on Thursday evening after being warned by the region’s Tactical Operations Commander not act in ways that could incite riots in the town and were forced to sign a pledge to avoid such behaviour.
Thursday’s arrests marks the third time RNDP members have been jailed since sectarian riots broke out in the western Burma in early June, which killed nearly 100 people and displaced tens of thousands.
-Nang Mya Nadi and Aye Nai contributed reporting