Saturday, 6 March 2021

Bangladesh proposes safe zone in Myanmar for Rohingya refugees

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has called on Russia, China and India to help the country tackle the Rohingya refugee crisis.

In an interview with Anadolu news agency, Momen said his government has proposed to establish a safe zone in Rakhine state in Myanmar from where the refugees fled state persecution in late 2017.

“If a safe zone is created under the vigilance of China, Russia and India along with the ASEAN states, Rohingya people will be encouraged to return to their own land,” he said.

ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional bloc of 10 countries in Asia.

Momen added that guaranteeing the refugees who return Myanmar’s citizenship will be a precondition of the proposal, which he said has been appreciated by India. He hoped other countries would follow suit.

Since August 2017, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the Muslim-majority Rohingya community.

The United Nations has also documented mass gang rapes, killings – including of infants and young children – brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

Myanmar authorities treat Rohingya as unlawful citizens or illegal Bengalis based on a controversial 1982 Citizenship Law.

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a repatriation deal in November 2017 with a two-year timeframe to return the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

The repatriation has been postponed due to global concerns about the safety of Rohingya in their home country.

Momen said the main goal is to “repatriate them to their country of origin with due dignity and safety”, asking help from international actors.

“There are 1.2 million Rohingya now staying in Bangladesh. Although we are not a rich country, we are one of the most densely populated countries in the world,” Momen said, praising Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her “benevolence” in giving the refuge.  Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, once lauded as a beacon of democracy, is now criticised for her handling of the Rohingya crisis [Ann Wang/Reuters]

He offered to send some refugees to friendly countries of Myanmar so that the living conditions of the refugees improve and together these states can put pressure on Myanmar to take back the refugees.

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