Myanmar on Monday expressed its readiness to take back Rohingya Muslims even as Bangladesh said the neighbouring country must earn the persecuted minority group's trust for launching the repatriation process, amid fears of their fate once they returned to their homeland.
The development came as a high-level Myanmar delegation visited the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar and talked to their representatives.
"I asked them (Rohingyas) that this is the right time to consider whether they should go back or not, because we provided explanation to their key issues," Myanmar's Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Myint Thu, who led a 19-member delegation, told reporters in Dhaka.
"Myanmar is ready to welcome the Rohingyas (back home)... but the only thing is they (Rohingyas) have to decide (about their return) by themselves," Thu said.
Bangladesh's acting Foreign Secretary Kamrul Ahsan, who was also present at the briefing, however, said Naypyidaw must generate trust among the Rohingyas for their spontaneous return. "As long as confidence is not built up they (Rohingys) won't go back," he said.
Ahsan added: "We (Bangladesh) won't push back anyone forcibly".
Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a crackdown by Myanmar's military in 2017 in Rakhine state and are living in camps in Cox's Bazar.
Myanmar has faced international pressure to allow the Rohingya to return to Rakhine and grant them citizenship rights.
A 19-member Myanmar delegation in the last two days visited the Rohingya camps, one specially erected for Hindu residents of Rakhine who were also forced to flee their home along with the Rohingya Muslims.
This was the third visit by a Myanmar delegation to the Rohingya camps, but this time they were accompanied by a 5-member ASEAN observer group during the interactions.
Thu said during the interactions they tried to convince the Rohingyas to go back to Myanmar, saying the situation in their homeland in northern Rakhine is now better and called the discussion "very candid".
"Then we tried to build up trust between the community leaders and our delegation," he said.
Thu said they also showed fact-sheet to Rohingyas detailing the proposed repatriation process as well as their access to justice and access to education, health and social services.
The top Myanmar foreign affairs bureaucrat said a part of the discussion was related to the Rohingya's citizenship NVC card issues.
Bangladesh's Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, meanwhile, in a separate media interaction on Monday said Myanmar has expressed its plan for the first time to provide the Rohingyas the natural citizenship which he called a "major breakthrough".
He, however, said, the citizenship issue was an internal affair of Myanmar, and Bangladesh would not like to be taken hostage on the issue. He said Dhaka only "wants safe return of the Rohingyas and their mobility there".
Momen said he received an invitation from his Myanmar counterpart but "I told him I will go when the first batch of Roihingyas will return home".
He said the Rohingyas should go back to their motherland to realise their rights and "they (Rohingyas) should understand, it's not possible to realise their rights (citizenship) unless they are going back (to Rakhine)".
In a related development, Bangladesh on Monday handed over a fresh list of 25,000 Rohingyas to Myanmar for repatriation.
Ahsan said Bangladesh earlier handed over a list of 30,000 Rohingyas in two phases and among them Myanmar by now already verified 8,000 for repatriation in first batch.
Asked when the expected repatriation could start, he said "anytime" since Myanmar already verified 8,000 of them.
The two secretaries joint briefing came after they held a nearly two-hour meeting at state guest house Meghna here in the capital.
Myanmar had agreed to take back the Rohingyas under a bilateral agreement with Bangladesh on January 16, 2018. But, the deal did not progress much as there was little tangible action from the Myanmar side and refusal of the displaced persons to go back amid uncertainty and insecurity.
Previously, the first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year, but eventually they declined to go back, fearing that the situation in Rakhine was still not favourable.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)