Bangladesh wants Rohingya ‘safe zone’ in Myanmar

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Rozina Islam | Update: 13:54, Sep 08, 2017

Bangladesh has made two proposals regarding a resolution to the Rohingya crisis.

The first is for Myanmar to create a ‘safe zone’ inside its Rakhine state for the Rohingya people who are facing brutal persecution, and the second is to involve the international community in making Myanmar take back the Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh government has already sent letters to several agencies of the United Nations (UN), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in this regard.

Two top officials of foreign and home ministries told Prothom Alo that the government has urged the international community in the letters to create a ‘safe zone’ inside Myanmar’s Rakhine state so that the Rohingya people are not repressed.

The government has also urged them to take steps to take back the Rohingya people who have taken shelter in Bangladesh.

The government says the Rohingya people are the citizens of Myanmar and they have to go back to their country and there is no other alternative.

According to latest estimates of UN agencies, is around 175,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh 25 August this year, and the number is increasing every day, most of whom are women and children.

The Rohingya people who have made it to Bangladesh, speak of killings, rape, arson, and planned ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar army.

A total of 84,000 Rohingya people took shelter in Bangladesh last year, adding to the existing 400,000.

Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque told Prothom Alo, “We want Rohingya refugees to go back to their own country and also the implementation of Kofi Annan report’s proposals.”

“The Annan report clearly stated that the identity of the Rohingya refugees have to be confirmed and they must be repatriated,” he added.

The foreign secretary also said, “We sent letters not just to international organisations, but to every mission [embassy] as well.”

The government has directed law enforcers to be vigilant so that the Rohingya refugees do not get mixed up with the locals.

The public security division secretary of the home ministry, Mostafa Kamal Uddin, told Prothom Alo, “We have urged the international community and organisations to take every possible step to push back them [Rohingya refugees].”

Professor CR Abrar of the International Relations Department of Dhaka University, however, thinks Bangladesh cannot push the Rohingya people back to Myanmar forcefully.

“As per the charter of human rights, the government cannot push them back using force. This is not a new problem. Bangladesh did not raise the issue in any international forum in past 10-15 years,” said CR Abrar.

CR Abrar also said, “When Myanmar is conducting genocide in Rakhine state, we are buying rice from the country. Is that ethical? What position has the government taken?”

Local district administrations and the Bangladesh Border Guard have been assigned to register the Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar violence to Bangladesh recently.

Disaster management and relief secretary Shah Kamal told Prothom Alo, “We’ll arrange food, accommodation, sanitation and more temporarily for the Rohingya refugees after we visit the places.”

*The article, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Imam Hossain.