Myanmar and Bangladesh border authorities met at the Taung Pyo Letwe General Administration Department yesterday morning to discuss repatriation, INGOs and those who have taken up the people on the border between the two countries.
Following an introduction of Myanmar and Bangladesh district-level border authorities, the leader of the Bangladesh group offered to assist in returning the people living on the Zero Line back to their respective homes.
The head of the Bangladesh group also requested joint patrols, and explained that international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) went into the Zero Line area under their own arrangement to provide aid and were not sent by the Bangladeshi government.
The Zero Line is an undeveloped, formerly uninhabited area on the border between the neighbouring countries that has recently become an unauthorised, home for residents who do not want to participate in repatriation, officials said.
“No threat or pressure has been applied. The decision is theirs to make. Where they are staying now is No Man’s Land, and thus no one should be staying there. The matters of INGOs providing aid and entering the restricted area of Zero Line are not in accordance with the law and thus they are being informed about it”, said U Ye Htut, the Deputy commissioner of the General Administration Department in Rakhine State.
Even though the INGOs were said to have not crossed the river from the other side to provide aid, they were providing aid in an indirect way to people in the Zero Line. Officials from the Myanmar side contended that this should be prevented by the Bangladesh border guard force.
Rakhine State officials said the actions of the residents of Zero Line are politically motivated. People staying in the Zero Line area are being encouraged to return, but were allegedly giving erroneous reports of threats, NVC processes and security problems, Myanmar officials said. Bangladesh would need to persuade them to accept the returnee acceptance process, according to Myanmar officials.
Requirements of the Bangladesh side were being coordinated by Myanmar local authorities, and security matters for the returnees were being arranged, officials said.
After the meeting, the border authority representatives of the two countries went to the Zero Line area, also known as the Non-Construction Zone, and observed the people residing there.
In his explanation to district-level border authorities about people staying in Zero Line, deputy commissioner U Ye Htut said a list was being prepared for those who want to return. Myanmar had repeatedly met with them to return, but they were not cooperating, he said.
In a recent trip to the area, the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs had discussed repatriation with Zero Line residents, but was told they would not accept.
“The people staying in the area did not come from a single village or village tract, so they were invited to send a representative.
However this was not done despite time and adequate explanations and arrangements being made”, U Ye Htut said.
U Ye Htut said the Myanmar side was ready to discuss repatriation with them at any time. The leader of the Bangladesh border authority asked the people staying in the area to select representatives by village and to discuss the prospect of returning and to provide a list of those who want to return to the deputy commissioner. He explained that their side will provide necessary assistance on the process of accepting returnees.
Afterwards, the two countries’ district level border authorities left the Zero Line Area and returned to the office of the head of Taung Pyo Township General Administration Department.
They then inspected the Taung Pyo Letwe Reception Centre, after which the Bangladeshi party returned to Bangladesh through the border gate.
Myanmar officials expressed concern about the residents of Zero Line.
“The people staying in the Zero Line area were not going anywhere, and they were spreading false news. They were waiting to be removed or detained by the country’s security force in order to create international pressure. At the same time, support was being provided to them so that they could remain in the Zero Line for a long time”, said U Ye Htut.
Cooperation with Bangladeshi officials will continue in an effort to resolve the matter of people entering into the Zero Line with an aim of creating political controversy, Rakhine State government officials said.— Myanmar News Agency