Aug. 25 (UPI) -- More than a million Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh remain in limbo three years after hundreds of thousands fled Myanmar amid targeted persecution.
Bangladesh opened its borders to more than 700,000 people fleeing violence in Myanmar, but tensions have been rising between the Bangladeshi government and the refugees.
The novel coronavirus has also arrived at the run-down camps in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh, giving rise to new anxieties among the Rohingya struggling to make ends meet, Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported Monday.
Frustration is also mounting in Dhaka as the Bangladeshi government could be seeking the repatriation of the Rohingya but Myanmar remains less than cooperative about the plans.
"Myanmar is delaying to take back the Rohingyas citing the coronavirus pandemic and an election in that country in October as reasons," Bangladesh's Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told Kyodo.
According to Momen, Bangladesh has sent Myanmar a list of 600,000 refugees for the repatriation, but Myanmar agreed to accept only 30,000 people on the list, the report says.
Myanmar continues to deny accusations of genocide amid rising concerns about a second wave of COVID-19.
Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi suggested in a speech Tuesday the country needs to pull together to combat the virus without discrimination based on religion or ethnicity.
"Please take it as a chance to repair our international image. We need [an attitude of] strong determination, like 'We can make it'," the politician said, according to local news service The Irrawady, which also described the 2017 mass killings as "security clearance operations" of the military.
Human Rights Watch condemned Myanmar on Tuesday for the ongoing refugee crisis and for failing to guarantee a safe haven for the Rohingya.
"The Myanmar government has failed to ensure that nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees can safely return home three years since fleeing the Myanmar military's crimes against humanity and possible genocide," the group said in statement.
In 2018, Amnesty International stripped Suu Kyi of a human rights award in the wake of the violence.
On Aug. 25, 2017, the Myanmar military began to target Rohingya Muslims with violence that included rape and arson. The attack was a response to an initial assault from a group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.