Bangladesh says Myanmar cold on proposals for Rohingya solution


Rohingya refugees try to get a mosquito net and a bowl as a relief from an organisation in the streets of Teknaf, Bangladesh, 10 September 2017. Photo: Abir Abdullah/EPA

Bangladesh foreign minister A H Mahmood Ali has told Dhaka-based foreign diplomats that Bangladesh has always preferred bilateral solution to the long-standing Rohingya crisis, but Myanmar never responded to any proposals.

"Rather they have been running a malicious propaganda terming the Rohingyas as ‘illegal migrants from Bangladesh’ and the attackers to their BGP posts as ‘Bengali terrorists’,” Mahmood Ali said in a briefing on Sunday.

The back-to-back briefings of the diplomats followed an exodus of nearly 300,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh from Myanmar’s Rakhine State since Aug 25 violence. Only ASEAN diplomats were called to the briefing and a foreign ministry official said they will separately be briefed soon.

Myanmar is a member of ASEAN, a bloc of 10 Southeast Asian countries including Indonesia and Malaysia who have reacted to the latest violence in Rakhine State that has caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya people as its citizens while many in the Buddhist-majority country consider them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

But the latest violence drew worldwide concern as it took place on the day when a commission led by the former UN secretary general Kofi Annan submitted its report with recommendations to address the root cause of the problem such as giving them citizenship to ensure basic rights.

In a rare letter to the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also expressed concern that the violence could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

He said the issue could come up in the general debate of the upcoming UN General Assembly, regular session, which will begin on Sep 12 at the headquarters in New York. The general debate will begin on Sep 19.

During the briefing, the foreign ministry said, the diplomats “highly praised” the government for hosting the Rohingyas for decades and giving shelter to the new refugees fleeing violence.

“They also stressed the protection of civilians and urged (for a stop to) disproportionate use of force during the ongoing military operation in Rakhine”.

With the latest influx, Ali told them the number of Rohingyas living in Bangladesh has reached about 700,000.

He sought “political support” for them for a permanent solution to the crisis.

“This is creating huge challenge for Bangladesh in terms of providing shelter as well as other humanitarian assistances to them,” he said, highlighting Bangladesh’s bilateral efforts, according to a foreign ministry statement.

He said Myanmar took back 236,599 Rohingyas to their homeland through a bilateral agreement in 1992 when they recognised them as ‘members of Myanmar society’.

Ali said in an attempt to address the security concerns of Myanmar, Bangladesh also proposed to sign MoUs in 2014 on ‘Border Liaison Office and Security Dialogue’.

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