Bangladesh said today the Rohingya crisis was no longer Myanmar’s internal issue and had become a “regional catastrophe” as it appealed to the international community to take “crucial decisions” to press Naypyitaw to take back about 500,000 refugees living in the country.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said about 500,000 Rohingyas had fled to Bangladesh out of the total 900,000 that have left Myanmar after an army crackdown on the minority community in the Rakhine State on August 25 following a terrorist attack on the country’s security outposts.
He said a total of 3,000 Rohinya Muslims had been killed so far since the army crackdown was launched and Human Rights Watch has got evidence of 284 villages of having been bulldozed.
Ali said Rohingya crisis was no longer an internal issue of Myanmar’s and has become a “regional catastrophe”.
“It’s (also) not a bilateral problem of Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladesh didn’t play any role in creating this crisis. The center of the crisis is in Myanmar and the solution lies with Myanmar as well,” he said.
“Even the international pressure has so far failed to refrain Myanmar military from implementing its long term depopulation plan for Rohingyas,” he said.
Ali said, for the first time in history, a majority of Rohingyas had come to Bangladesh.
“Virtually only 400,000 to 500,000 of them out of some 1,800,000 Rohingyas now remain in Myanmar,” Ali said.
He said Myanmar had launched a large-scale military operation codenamed “Area Clearance” to confront “terrorists”, but under the cover of anti-terrorism campaign continued to carryout ruthless atrocities on Rohingyas by mobilising the troops one month ahead of the crackdown.
Ali’s comments came as fresh influx of Rohingyas hit Bangladesh, a week after Myanmar agreed to take back their forcibly displaced people and sent a senior minister to Dhaka to open talks amid mounting global outrage against the country’s treatment of the minority population.
Ali, however, said the Myanmar’s proposal was actually a tactic to defuse the mounting international pressure, which he said should be kept on to force the country to revise its approach towards Rohingyas.
He said Bangladesh expected European Union foreign ministers meeting to take “some crucial decisions against the Myanmar Military” as they are scheduled to meet on October 16 in Brussels to discuss the Rohingya crisis.
Bangladesh disagreed with Maynmar’s proposal for Rohingya repatriation under a verification system set out in 1992 in view of changed scenario and reality and rather proposed a joint Bangladesh-Myanmar verification strategy, he said.
“We proposed Myanmar to take back all Rohingyas without considering their arrival date into Bangladesh as well as to involve UN and international agencies at every level of repatriation,” Ali said.
On October 2, Bangladesh proposed a bilateral agreement to facilitate the repatriation process and handed over a draft of the proposed deal to Myanmar’s visiting minister in Dhaka.
Ali also criticised Myanmar’s government-sponsored media for portraying the entire issue as “Islamist terrorism” or “radical Bangali terrorism”.
He said the media did it to confuse some of the neighbouring countries despite repeated requests from Bangladesh not to use the term “Bangali” to refer to the Rohingyas.