Malaysia has urged Asean to address the civil war in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to find a long-term solution to the Rohingya crisis that affects Bangladesh in many ways.
"The civil war in the Rakhine state needs to be addressed by Asean if the long-term status of Rohingyas is to be fully resolved," said Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Friday, the second day of a two-day Asean Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Vietnam.
He said as the likelihood of the return of Rohingya refugees remains unlikely and dangerous, the Myanmar government should first provide citizenship to the Rohingyas within its borders, estimated at some 500,000.
Minister Saifuddin said Malaysia maintains its position on Myanmar - that the perpetrators of the genocide must be brought to justice; repatriation that is voluntary, safe and dignified should happen as quickly as possible through consultation with the Rohingyas.
He said Asean should constructively engage China and Myanmar, together with Bangladesh, according to the statement shared by the Malaysian Foreign Minister on his verified Facebook page.
The Malaysian Foreign Minister said they will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Rakhine state, Bangladesh, as well as in Malaysia.
"Given the current challenges to return for the Rohingyas, those who are in Cox's Bazar, among others due to the trust deficit against the Myanmar government, which has to be addressed accordingly," he said.
The Foreign Minister said it is imperative that a region wide prioritisation on the Rohingyas' right to a free, decent and dignified life ie by creating conducive conditions for human security and inclusive development for all communities and increasing humanitarian access is essential before repatriation should be pushed further.
"This includes solutions for education, livelihood, economic empowerment and recognition of cultural & religious identity," he said.
Saifuddin said the discourse should be expanded beyond immediate return to a comprehensive discussion on the complexities of the conflict in the Rakhine state.
"China's economic and political interest in the Rakhine state and its strong bilateral relations with Myanmar presents an opportunity to influence the latter towards a more creative and comprehensive approach," he said.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal on November 23, 2017.
On January 16, 2018, Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on "Physical Arrangement", which was supposed to facilitate the repatriation.
It stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the start.
Despite all the preparations, no Rohingya turned up on August 22 last year to accept the "voluntary" repatriation offer, prompting authorities to suspend the process for the day.
The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15, 2018 but it was also halted amid the unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for the lack of a congenial atmosphere in Rakhine
Bangladesh and India have discussed a number of issues of mutual interest including border haats and joint study for the proposed 'Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement' between the two countries.
Both sides also held extensive discussions on India-Bangladesh CEOs’ Forum, sharing of trade data, regional connectivity initiatives, harmonization of standards, upgradation of border trading infrastructure and facilitation of business visas.
The issues came up for discussion at the Commerce Secretary level meeting between India and Bangladesh held in New Delhi on January 15-16.
The Bangladesh delegation was led by Commerce Secretary Dr Md JafarUddin while the Indian delegation was led by Commerce Secretary of India AnupWadhawan.
The meeting was preceded by the 12th meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on trade, at the level of additional secretaries of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India and Ministry of Commerce, Bangladesh on January 13-14 in New Delhi.
Technical discussions were held in detail on various areas of mutual interest in trade and commerce, according to Press Information Bureau of India.
It was agreed that the next meetings of the Commerce Secretaries and the JWG will be held in Bangladesh, at mutually convenient dates.
International agency Oxfam and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), aiming to strengthen anti-corruption activities in the country.
The new partnership with ACC marks a new chapter in Oxfam’s relations with the government of Bangladesh, said a press release issued on Thursday.
Dr Dipankar Datta, Oxfam in Bangladesh’s Country Director and A K M Sohel, Director General (ICT & Training), ACC signed the five-year MoU on behalf of their respective sides at the ACC head office in the city.
ACC Secretary Md DilwarBakth, Oxfam Business Development and Quality Director Mostafijur Rahman, Economic Justice and Resilience Lead Dr Khalid Hossain, Policy Advocacy Head SM Monjur Rashid, and other senior officials of both ACC and Oxfam were present at the signing ceremony.
The 2020 marks the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh MujiburRahman. The Father of the Nation had always dreamt of building a ‘corruption and inequality free’ Bangladesh. To realize the dream of the Father of the Nation, the ACC-Oxfam debate competition and other youth engagement programs will enormously contribute to the prevention of corruption by creating awareness, said the release.
ACC and Oxfam are launching a national debate competition which will pave the way of creating mass awareness about corruption.
Under the signed MoU, Oxfam will also work with ACC as knowledge partner in the areas of research and campaign to reduce inequality in the society by preventing corruption.
Dipankar Datta said, “We hope that a better understanding of the phenomenon of corruption and its relationship to good governance will help improving our efforts to reduce inequality and poverty. The national level debate competition will essentially contribute to that understanding, especially for the young generation who will lead the country in the nearest future.”
The ACC-Oxfam National Debate Competition will reach more than 28,000 high schools across Bangladesh. Besides, both the organization will organize essay writing, citizen’s dialogue and other awareness events through out the year across Bangladesh.
ACC Secretary Md DilwarBakth said the government follows ‘zero-tolerance’ policy when it comes to address corruption. “We believe that corruption can be eliminated from our society and prevention is the only effective method to achieve that. In order to achieve that goal, we are partnering with organizations like Oxfam,” he said.
Oxfam’s recent study finds that last year, the poorest half of the world became 11% poorer, while billionaires' fortunes rose 12% - or $2.5 billion every day. The gap between the richest and poorest people is growing. While people at the top get influence, opportunities and power, the poorest people miss out on the basics they need - like schools, jobs and healthcare.
Oxfam is working globally with governments to reduce inequality from the societies. Oxfam believes that a corruption free society will enable citizens to have better access to essential services including education and healthcare, greater rights for women and increased support for poor and marginalized.
Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming on Thursday said they are ready to join hands with the Bangladesh government and people to build a stronger Bangladesh-China community with a shared future keeping the ‘Mujib Year’ in their mind.
He said they are ready to embark on a new journey and take the China-Bangladesh strategic cooperative partnership to new heights taking the 45th anniversary as a great opportunity.
"China-Bangladesh relationship is now at its best time ever in history. We should never forget that our friendship was forged and nurtured by the older generations of our leaders," said the Ambassador.
He was addressing the opening ceremony of “Happy Chinese New Year Gala 2020, 45th Anniversary of China-Bangladesh Friendship and Mujib Year" at the National Theatre of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in the evening.
State Minister for Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, who spoke at the function as the chief guest, highlighted various aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries.
He hoped the relationship will further be strengthened in the coming days.
With the guidance of two countries' leaders, the Chinese Ambassador said the bilateral cooperation in various fields has constantly made breakthroughs in 2019.
"Last year, China remained the largest trading partner of Bangladesh and our two sides have witnessed robust growth in trade," said Ambassador Jiming.
With an increasing rise of direct Chinese investment in Bangladesh, he said, various bilateral cooperation projects have been launched.
"In 2019, China-Bangladesh people-to-people and cultural exchanges underwent significant development. Over 37,000 Bangladesh tourists travelled to China and more than 5,000 Bangladeshi students studied in China," he said, adding that Chinese TV series have been showed on Bangladesh screens for the first time ever.
The Chinese Ambassador laid emphasis on enhancing the synergy between two countries' development strategies, jointly promoting Belt and Road Initiative, increasing mutual understanding and sharing of respective governance.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Premier Zhou Enlai visited Dhaka twice and Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman visited China twice either.
"The seed of friendship was thus planted by the veteran leaders of our two countries long before diplomatic ties were established. It has now grown into a giant tree with deep roots and rich fruits," said Ambassador Jiming.
He said the year 2020 is the birth centenary of the greatest Bengali of all times, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
"The whole Bangladesh will celebrate the year as ‘Mujib Borsho’, and the Chinese Embassy will also implement initiatives to celebrate this significant event with our Bangladeshi friends to show Chinese people’s highest considerations and respect toward this great man," he said.
Artists from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region presented a wonderful performance.
"They’ve travelled all the way from China to Dhaka to make tonight show possible," said the Ambassador.
He said Xinjiang has suffered from terrorism and extremism occasionally but nowadays, Xinjiang is a place with freedom and security.
Last week, the Ambassador said Chinese people received the kind “Chinese New Year Message” from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In the message, she reviewed the time-honored China-Bangladesh friendship over the centuries and looked ahead into the future.
Chinese New Year, commonly referred to as “Guo Nian (means celebrating the New Year)” is the most ceremonious and joyfully celebrated festival in Chinese culture.
He said for Chinese people all over the world, the Chinese New Year is not only the most prominent traditional festival, but also an important occasion for family reunion and celebration, usually celebrated with fireworks, dragon and lion dance, lantern show and riddle games.
Director of Xinjiang Art Theatre Li Yong was also present.
The government of Myanmar should take steps to urgently restore full citizenship rights to Rohingyas, said Fortify Rights on Thursday.
New evidence collected by Fortify Rights, including eyewitness testimonies and internal government documents, confirms that Myanmar authorities are continuing to force and coerce Rohingya to accept National Verification Cards (NVCs), which effectively identify Rohingya as foreigners and strip them of access to full citizenship rights.
“The NVC is widely known as an abusive tool, and the government should scrap it without delay,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “This new evidence implicates government officials in ongoing efforts to erase Rohingya identity and deny them full citizenship.”
Fortify Rights, which works to ensure human rights for all, documented five recent cases of Myanmar authorities in Rakhine State forcing or coercing Rohingya to accept the NVC.
The organisation also obtained an internal government document informing state-, district-, and local-level officials that a team of officials would be deployed to issue NVCs to Rohingya in internment camps in Sittwe Township.
The document, dated December 7, 2019, is signed by the head of the Sittwe Township Department of Immigration and Population, informing the administrator of Thet Kay Pyin that an “immigration mobile team” would be deployed to Thet Kay Pyin internment camp.
The document states the team would be tasked with issuing NVCs to “Bengali people”—a term often used by Myanmar officials to refer to Rohingya, implying that they are from Bangladesh and their ethnic Rohingya identity does not exist. The township official copied state- and district-level officers of the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population on the letter.
A 31-year-old Rohingya man in Thet Kay Pyin internment camp told Fortify Rights how state security officers forced him to accept an NVC on December 10, just three days after the document was issued.
The government of Myanmar continues to confine over 125,000 Rohingyas to more than 20 internment camps in five townships of Rakhine State.
During violent attacks in 2012, extremists and state security forces forcibly displaced most of the Rohingya now confined to the camps.
Fortify Rights also obtained a copy of the “National Strategy on Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Closure of IDP Camps,” adopted by the Union-level Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement on November 20.
The document instructs authorities to facilitate “citizenship verification in camps slated for closure.” In practice, citizenship verification” in Rakhine State is implemented through the NVC process.
While the vast majority of more than one million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh refuse to return to Myanmar until the government restores their rights and ensures protections, a small number of Rohingyas have returned to Rakhine State informally and voluntarily. Authorities forced Rohingya who have returned to accept NVCs.
For instance, in November, a Rohingya man explained to Fortify Rights that he returned to Myanmar from Bangladesh informally on October 11, 2019. Upon arriving in Myanmar, authorities brought him and other Rohingya to a reception centre.
ICJ Decision on Jan 23
In November, The Gambia opened a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Myanmar for failing to prevent or punish genocide against Rohingya Muslims.
On January 23, the ICJ will read its decision with regard to The Gambia’s request for provisional measures of protection for Rohingya in Myanmar.
Provisional measures are binding orders from the court to the parties in the case to prevent further violation of the rights in dispute while the case is pending.
On December 10, in its request for provisional measures, The Gambia’s legal team presented evidence before the ICJ regarding ongoing atrocities against the Rohingya.
“A further step Myanmar is taking against the Rohingya as a group,” said attorney Tafadzwa Pasipanodya on behalf of The Gambia, “is the intensified effort to force them to accept ‘national verification cards’ that explicitly recognize cardholders as non-citizens and brand them as ‘Bengali.’”
In September, Fortify Rights published a 102-page report, “Tools of Genocide,” revealing how Myanmar authorities forced and coerced Rohingya to accept NVCs in a systematic campaign to erase Rohingya identity and deny Rohingya citizenship.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Myanmar from January 17 to 18.
The government of China previously urged the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to fast track the returns of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to northern Rakhine State, despite objections by Rohingya, the United Nations, human rights groups, and others due to protection concerns.
“China is playing a non-neutral role in the Rohingya crisis and, unfortunately, that role is devoid of any concern for human rights, justice, and accountability,” said Matthew Smith.
“China’s political protection for Myanmar has limits, and those limits will be on display as various international accountability mechanisms gain steam.”