NLD official: Rohingya not a priority, should be “returned” to Bangladesh

In the opposition’s first post-victory statement on the fate of persecuted Rohingya Muslims, a senior National League for Democracy official has said helping the group will not be a priority when the party takes power next year.

Dismissing the stateless ethnic minority as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Win Htein told the New York Times they should be “returned” there.

“We’ll deal with the matter based on law and order and human rights,” he said. “But we have to deal with the Bangladesh government because almost all of them came from there.

“We have other priorities. Peace, the peaceful transition of power, economic development and constitutional reform.”

More than one million Rohingya live in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, with more than 100,000 confined to squalid internal displacement camps.

They are denied citizenship and freedom of movement and were unable to vote in last week’s election because, while some can trace their presence in the country back generations, the current military-backed government labels them illegal immigrants.

Talking to reporters at her home ahead of the polls earlier this month, Aung San Suu Kyi warned the media not to “exaggerate” the plight of the group.

Her comments came as the NLD came under fire for failing to select a single Muslim candidate, amid anti-Muslim sentiment whipped up by Buddhist nationalists ahead of the polls.  

Many of Myanmar’s Muslims, estimated to make up at least 5 per cent of the population, voted for the party even though it made no promises to end the religious discrimination.

Photo/ Coconuts Yangon

Clarification: This post has been edited to clarify the number of Rohingya living in internal displacement camps.

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