Dhaka seeks global pressure on Myanmar over Rohingya

Wednesday 19th September 2018 02:39 EDT

Dhaka: Bangladesh has urged the international community to put more pressure on Myanmar to provide a permanent solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis and ensure their safe return. Over 700,000 members of the mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority fled sectarian violence in Rakhine state in western Myanmar in August 2017 following a Rohingya rebel attack on government outposts and a subsequent military crackdown.

"Our past experiences suggest that Myanmar does not fulfil its obligations unless pressurized by the international community," Bangladesh's deputy minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam said during the presentation of a report on Rohingyas by Oxfam in Dhaka. The report was titled "One Year on: Time to put Women and Girls at the Heart of the Rohingya Response".

"We believe the strong public opinion around the world that seeks accountability of the perpetrators would help Myanmar address the root causes of the Rohingya problem and take effective measures for ensuring basic needs of the Rohingyas when they return to their homes," he said.

Repatriation process has yet to start

International pressure led Myanmar and Bangladesh to sign a deal on November 23 to repatriate Rohingyas, according to which the return of the refugees should have started on January 23. The formal repatriation process has yet to start nine months since the deal was inked. "The Myanmar authorities must demonstrate a strong political will as well as visible actions to address the discrimination against the Rohingyas," Alam said.

The minister said that the international community needed to keep applying pressure on Myanmar in order to gain access to Rakhine state so that the needs of Rohingya women and girls can be adequately addressed once they return to their homes. The authorities in Myanmar do not recognize the Rohingyas as citizens and denies them basic rights, considering them instead to be Bengali immigrants.

Rohingya crisis could have been better: Suu Kyi

Responding to questions during a discussion at the World Economic Forum's regional meeting in Hanoi, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the Rohingya crisis could have been handled better. Myanmar's army is accused of mass rape, killings and setting fire to thousands of homes of Rohingya Muslims. Two weeks ago a specially appointed UN human rights team recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar commanders for genocide and other crimes.

"There are of course ways in which with hindsight I think the situation could have been handled better," Suu Kyi said. She still defended Myanmar security forces, saying that all groups in western Rakhine state had to be protected.

"We have to be fair to all sides," Suu Kyi said. "The rule of law must apply to everyone. We cannot choose and pick." Suu Kyi said the situation was complicated by the myriad ethnic minorities in the area, some of which are at risk of disappearing entirely and which include not just the Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. Although the violence in Rakhine state has eased, Myanmar has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Muslim Rohingya who fled and the underlying causes of tension that makes them targets of discrimination and repression in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar. Suu Kyi said that Myanmar is prepared to take those who fled, but their return has been complicated by the fact that two governments are involved.

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