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Rohingya refugees safe as long as they stay in the model villages: Myanmar Army chief

The country’s army chief reported that Rohingya refugees who return to Myanmar will be safe as long as they stay in the model villages built for them, renewing fears they will be kept in settlements indefinitely.

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh after the military launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents in August that the U.S. and the U.N. have called ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed to return of refugees to their country to conflict-hit Rakhine State last year but Rohingya feel an intense dislike to come back to a country without guarantees of safety and basic rights such as freedom of movement.

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The country’s powerful army Chief Min Aung Hlaing compounded those fears when speaking to a visiting delegation from the U.N. Security Council in the capital Naypyidaw on April 30. “There is no need to be worried about their security if they stay in the areas designated for them,” he told the delegation, according to readout of the meeting posted on Min Aung Hlaing’s official Facebook page on Saturday.

He referred to members of the stateless minority as “Bengalis”, reflecting a widespread belief in Myanmar that the Rohingya are immigrants from Bangladesh despite a longstanding presence in Rakhine.

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