Dhaka, Mar 1 (UNB) – Bangladesh has asked Myanmar to take more specific measures for safe return of the Rohingyas saying it does not want anything except their safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return to their place of origin in Myanmar.
“We don’t want anything except a safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar. We expect the Security Council’s continued leadership to resolve the Rohingya crisis,” said Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque.
He made the remarks during a meeting on the situation in Myanmar held at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday, according to a press release of the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations.
On addressing the accountability issues, the Foreign Secretary said Myanmar’s own investigation process seems to have failed time and again. “Therefore, existing UN mechanism needs to be initiated.”
He urged Myanmar to ensure full implementation of the MoU among Myanmar, UNDP and UNHCR as well as the recommendations of the Kofi Annan Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.
“We’ve been hearing that most of the recommendations of the Annan Commission have already been implemented. Had it been so, I can assure you the situation on the ground would have been improved vastly,” said the Foreign Secretary.
He said it is very natural for one to ask why Rohingyas are not willing to return voluntarily and why Bangladesh is still having fresh arrival as of today.
UN Special Envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener also briefed the UNSC on her recent visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar in this regard.
Since her appointment as Special Envoy in April 2018, Burgener has visited Myanmar five times and Bangladesh thrice. Her most recent visit to Myanmar was from 19 to 28 January, and she was last in Bangladesh in early February.
“Despite our sincere efforts, the repatriation process of the Rohingyas could not begin yet since a conducive environment for their return is yet to be created in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. What could be more unfortunate than this?” he said.
“Is Bangladesh paying for this situation for showing sympathy and providing shelter on humanitarian grounds to the minority Rohingya community who faced persecution and barbaric atrocities in their own land?” he posed a question.
The Foreign Secretary said the root cause of the Rohingya crisis lies in Myanmar, and so does its solution.
On Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s “zero tolerance” policy against terrorism, he said the government is determined to make sure that no terrorist group is allowed to use a single inch of Bangladesh’s land for the activities.
Unable to take new Rohingyas
The Foreign Secretary said Bangladesh will need to stop accepting more Rohingyas from Myanmar and accused its government of being “obstructionist” about bringing back more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence, reports AP.
Myanmar, meanwhile, continued to insist it is taking steps toward their return. Its ambassador appealed for patience from the U.N. Security Council, but several members complained about what they saw as lagging progress nearly a year after a council delegation traveled to see the crisis firsthand.
After a renewed flare-up in violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, new refugees are still crossing the border to Bangladesh, said Foreign Secretary ShahidulHaque.
“As far as repatriation is concerned, the situation has gone far from bad to worse,” he told the council, adding that his country “would no longer be in a position to accommodate more people from Myanmar.” He didn’t say when that might occur.
More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017, when Rohingya militants attacked Myanmar security forces in Rakhine, triggering a massive military retaliation that U.N. investigators have called genocide. The exodus came after hundreds of thousands of other Rohingya escaped previous bouts of violence and persecution.
Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar don’t accept the Rohingya Muslims as a native ethnic group. They are, instead, viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar.
Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982 and lack access to education and hospitals.
The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution in December strongly condemning “gross human rights violations and abuses” committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya.
Myanmar has made agreements with Bangladesh and U.N. agencies to repatriate the Rohingya, but it hasn’t happened.
The Bangladeshi foreign secretary said Bangladesh had “tried everything” with Myanmar but met with “hollow promises and various obstructionist approaches.”
He urged the Security Council to visit the Rohingya refugee camps again and set up “safe zones” for people of all backgrounds in conflict-torn parts of Myanmar.
Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador said his country was taking steps to facilitate the Rohingya’s return. The envoy, Hau Do Suan, pointed to three dozen small-scale community projects planned “as soon as the security condition permits” and to a recent investment fair meant to generate development in Rakhine.
“We seek your understanding of the practicality and possibilities on the ground,” Hau told the council, adding that building trust in Rakhine “takes time and patience, as well as courage.”
The Rohingya crisis has been a sensitive subject in the council, where Myanmar’s close ally China is among members with veto power. The council did visit Myanmar and Bangladesh last April and May, and members last summer urged stepping up efforts to enable the Rohingya to return.
Several countries on the council vented frustrations Thursday.
“The time has come for the government of Myanmar to assume its responsibility to protect its citizens” and for the council “to use all means at its disposal to make tangible progress,” said the Dominican Republic’s envoy, Jose Singer.
But Russia and China advised the group not to be strident.
“The international community should keep its patience,” Chinese Deputy Ambassador Wu Haitao said.