On Tuesday, in a move that caught the world by surprise, the government of Myanmar announced that it reached an agreement with neighboring Bangladesh to take back its Rohingya refugee population. The deal was announced in a meeting between Myanmar President U Thein Sein and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, where they discussed many different areas of future cooperation between the countries, including giving Bangladesh priority for exports when new gas and oil fields are discovered in Myanmar.
The Rohingya, originally from the Myanmar interior, have faced persecution for over three decades ever since the military junta took power in what was then Burma in 1978. A muslim minority group in a Buddhist-dominated nation, the Rohingya fled into Bangladesh to escape the oppression of the Myanmar government. While the international community recognized the Rohingya in Bangladesh as refugees, until today the Myanmar government considered them illegal immigrants. What this agreement will mean to the 28,000 Rohingya who had previously refused to return to Myanmar for fear of oppression remains to be seen.
To see what life is like for the Rohingya in Bangladeshi refugee camps, explore Saiful Huq Omi's Portfolio, "Fleeing Burma," featured in the Summer 2011 issue of World Policy Journal. A PDF of the full piece can be downloaded here.