The United Nations warned of "terror and panic" among Muslim Rohingya refugees facing repatriation to Burma, as the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faced blunt criticism from world leaders at an worldwide summit meeting.
The offer has come from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a meeting with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
He added that he was keen to hear how Burma will enable the Rohingya to voluntarily return home, adding that Burma's arrest and conviction of two Reuters journalists was "deeply troubling" to millions of Americans.
Suu Kyi said during a meeting with her Asean colleagues that her government understood the global concerns over the situation in Rakhine state and she had tried to fix the problem through peaceful ways for reconciliation and unity within her country, according to a source at the meeting. What's more, the security forces responsible for atrocities have yet to be held to account. "And I'm sure you will say the same of yours, that you understand your own country better than anybody else does", she said.
Some 2,260 Rohingya Muslims had been scheduled to leave the Bangladesh border post in the southeastern Cox's Bazar district in the first repatriations from Thursday under the voluntary scheme.
Asean has mulled dispatching representatives to Myanmar to oversee the repatriation and resettlement of the refugees after Myanmar and Bangladesh reached an agreement at the end of October to send thousands of them back beginning today.
Myanmar says its operations in Rakhine were a legitimate response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya insurgents in August a year ago.
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There is panic in the refugee camps, he said, after Myanmar and Bangladesh announced plans to start refugee repatriations very soon.
"The army is in every corner of the Jamtoli and Hakimpara camps, sitting and checking people and not letting them move between camps", one Rohingya refugee in the Jamtoli camp said.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities to "immediately halt" their plans, saying it was a "reckless move which puts lives at risk".
Currently, more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees are in Malaysia but not all of them are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Pence also urged Suu Kyi to pardon the imprisoned journalists.
The draft statement repeated ASEAN's previous calls on the importance of the repatriation of displaced persons to Myanmar, humanitarian relief and reconciliation among communities, but went further in calling for accountability for the alleged atrocities.
The aid groups say that while it is true that Rohingya refugees want to return to their homes in Myanmar, they consistently say they will only do so after Yangon guarantees their citizenship, freedom of movement and physical safety.
Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group.