China has not offered Rohingya refugees money to repatriate to Myanmar, a Chinese Embassy attaché in Dhaka told BenarNews, after the news outlet reported that a delegation of officials from Beijing had promised refugee families up to U.S. $6,000 each if they returned to Rakhinestate.
The embassy official was asked to comment on a video posted online by a Rohingya NGO that showed Chinese delegates meeting with refugees in southeastern Bangladesh, and offering families money to return to their homeland. Bangladeshi officials and Rohingya leaders confirmed the meeting and the offer to BenarNews on Tuesday.
“I didn't see the video so I cannot say whether there’s Chinese official[s],” political attaché Vera Hu said in an email response to BenarNews.
However, she clarified, “China never offers money to Rohingya people for them to go back.”
“It is Myanmar government that would offer the money to Rohingya families who don’t want to accept the houses built by Myanmar in Rakhine, as a fund to rebuild their homes by themselves,” she said.
On Thursday, BenarNews could not confirm Hu’s statement. Win Myat Aye, chief of Myanmar’s Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine, Aung Tun Thet, a member of Myanmar’s Rakhine inquiry commission, and a foreign ministry spokesman did not immediately return calls from the Yangon office of Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister entity of BenarNews,
The video of the Chinese delegation was taken when Sun Gouxiang, China’s special envoy for Asian Affairs, arrived at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar on March 3. During his visit, the diplomat met with 29 refugees, including 14 women.
A Bangladeshi official and Rohingya leaders who attended the meeting confirmed to BenarNews that the delegation had offered each family up to U.S. $6,000 to help the refugees rebuild their homes in Rakhine state.
“They asked us whether we would go back if they gave us five thousand to six thousand dollars,” Syed Ullah, secretary-general of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), an NGO, told BenarNews.
At least 200,000 homes would be constructed in Myanmar to accommodate the returning refugees, the Bangladesh official, who requested anonymity, told BenarNews.
“The Chinese government offered them the money, so that each Rohingya family can build their own houses when they go back,” he said.
About 730,000 Rohingya fled their homes in Rakhine and crossed into Bangladesh at the height of a brutal crackdown launched by the Myanmar military in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in August 2017. The United Nations and the United States described the killings that took place during the military counter-offensive as “ethnic cleansing.”
Last week, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told a U.N. Security Council meeting that the refugee crisis had gone from “bad to worse” and said Dhaka would no longer be able to take in refugees from Myanmar.