Bangladesh calls for safe return of Rohingyas to Myanmar

UkhiyaNews desk::
Bangladesh has called for ensuring the safe return of all Rohingyas to their homeland and invited the UN Security Council members to conduct a field mission to Bangladesh and possibly Myanmar to gather first-hand accounts of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

“Bangladesh looks forward to ensuring the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of all those displaced from Myanmar into our territory over the years, including the recent arrivals,” Bangladesh Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Masud Bin Momen told the UN Security Council Meeting on the ‘Situation in Myanmar’ (under Rule 37) on Thursday, according to a message received here today.

Momen said Bangladesh also looks forward to immediately start working with Myanmar and the international community to help implement the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

He said Bangladesh’s experience from the last three decades makes it obvious that the bilateral track loses its momentum as soon as the international community shifts its attention elsewhere.

“We, therefore, urge this Council to keep this issue alive in its agenda and make sure that we manage to arrive to the point of its logical conclusion … We also invite the Council members to conduct a field mission to Bangladesh and possibly Myanmar to gather first-hand accounts of the unfolding humanitarian crisis,” he said.

The ambassador reiterated Bangladesh’s call to immediately solve the Rohingya crisis.

“As stated by our honourbale Prime Minister in the General Assembly, which I would like to reiterate that the crisis has its root in Myanmar and its solution has to be found in Myanmar,” he said.

Momen said the Council should also take into account that reportedly more than two divisions of armed forces had been deployed by Myanmar in areas near Bangladesh border since the first week of August 2017.

“Troops were spotted within 200 meters of the zero line, and heavy armaments and artillery are reportedly placed in close proximity of our border. There have been 19 reported incidents of Bangladesh’s air space violation by Myanmar helicopters and drones, including the latest one the day before Wednesday,” he said.

The ambassador said anti-personnel mines have reportedly been laid along the stretch of the border to prevent the return of Rohingyas to Myanmar and there have been incidents of firing on Bangladeshi fishermen resulting in death of one.

Momen said Bangladesh continues to exercise utmost restraint in the face of such repeated, unwarranted and willful provocations. “As a responsible and responsive state, we shall forge ahead seeking peaceful and lasting solution to this protracted situation through diplomacy, dialogue and cooperation,” he said.

Accordingly, he said, the Bangladesh premier made a five-point proposal last week at the General Assembly that have been largely echoed by the UN Secretary General and Council members on Thursday afternoon.

“Pursuant to those points, the immediate priorities should be to cease all forms of violence and ensure protection and humanitarian assistance for those affected or vulnerable in Rakhine State,” Momen said.

The ambassador said according to the UN, since August 25th, nearly half a million people have entered Bangladesh fleeing violence in northern Rakhine State.

Despite serious constrains, he said, Bangladesh has given shelter to these distressed Rohingyas, majority of whom are women and children. “Our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has personally stood by the side of this most persecuted minority in the world,” he said.

Momen said Bangladesh is providing these forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals with basic and emergency humanitarian assistance and the international community has come forward in the spirit of responsibility sharing, although the UN and other relevant partners are stretched beyond their capacity.

“Our authorities are also conducting biometric registration of all those that arrived in the last one month,” he said.

With this fresh influx, Momen said, Bangladesh is currently hosting over 900,000 forcibly displaced Rohingyas from Myanmar. “This is an untenable situation, to say the least,” he said.

The ambassador pointed out that the indiscriminate killing and torture by the Myanmar security forces, aided by vigilante groups acting on religious and ethnic affiliation, has already been cited as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“This has also been emphasized by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her statement in the General Assembly,” he said.

Momen said the Security Council perhaps has a responsibility to examine whether military operations and consequent developments in northern Rakhine State point to any “threat to peace” and “breach of the peace” and what could be done to restore peace.

Under the present circumstances, he said, it is of utmost importance that the remaining Rohingya civilians in northern Rakhine State are guaranteed unconditional protection by creating UN-administered ‘safe zones’ inside Myanmar.

“It must also be ensured that the humanitarian assistance being provided reach all affected communities, in particular to the Rohingyas. Myanmar must ensure full and unfettered humanitarian access to the UN and other humanitarian agencies,” he said.

The ambassador said in line with its ‘zero tolerance’ policy to terrorism and violent extremism, Bangladesh has unequivocally condemned the alleged attacks on Myanmar security forces by extremist elements and offered to help Myanmar to combat terrorism through ‘coordinated patrol’, ‘joint inspection’ and even ‘joint operation’.

“Regrettably, in the backdrop of our overtures, we have heard senior Myanmar leaders and state entities referring to the alleged extremists as ‘Bengali terrorists’. There is perhaps no taker for the baseless and malicious propaganda to project Rohingyas as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh,” he said.

Momen said this is not only a blatant denial of the ethnic identity of the Rohingyas, but also an affront to Bengalis all over the world. This has to stop. The ambassador said the previous precedents including the 1992 arrangement through adaptation in the context of current realities, challenges and priorities can be used.

“For this, Bangladesh prefers joint-verification in the presence of international observers. The forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals should return to their places of original abode in safety, security and dignity,” he said.-BSS