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Myanmar, Bangladesh Announce Tentative Deal To Repatriate Rohingya Refugees

Tents are seen in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh where Rohingya Muslims live, after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh. More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine for neighbouring Bangladesh since late August 2017.

Myanmar says it has struck a tentative deal with neighboring Bangladesh for the return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled across the border amid a brutal military crackdown.

The memorandum of understanding between the two countries follows international pressure on Myanmar and the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to end a government-backed campaign of violence against the Rohingya. We reported on Tuesday that the U.S. State Department has labeled what's occurred there as "ethnic cleansing."

"We are ready to take them back as soon as possible after Bangladesh sends the forms back to us," Myint Kyaing, a permanent secretary at Myanmar's immigration ministry, was quoted by Al Jazeera as saying referring to registration forms.

As a word of caution, NPR's Anthony Kuhn says, "Many other details of the deal are unclear."

Some 600,000 Rohingya are believed to have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Aug. 25 when the crackdown began. The military's violence against the Rohingya was sparked by attack on a series of military outposts by militants associated the minority group.

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council urged Myanmar to end the crackdown. In response, Suu Kyi said that the Security Council should stay out of bilateral negotiations between the two countries or risk causing their collapse.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has had to fend off intense criticism for not doing more to resolve the crisis and end the violence. Although because of a power-sharing arrangement, she does not control the military, as NPR's Colin Dwyer has written "[many] in the international community expected her to speak out publicly against the violence that had captured the world's attention."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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