Dhaka fears Rohingya crisis can frustrate the hope for regional peace and stability if it is not solved at the earliest.
“Our fear is that, if this problem is not solved quickly, it may lead to pockets of radicalism, and since terrorists have no borders and faith, there’s high possibility of creation of uncertainty in the region which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure and stable region,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said yesterday at the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) held online.
He said Bangladesh sheltered some 1.1 million Rohingyas despite the threat to the country’s economy and ecology, on humanitarian grounds and it was keen to solve the crisis through constructive diplomacy with good neighbourly spirit.
He said Bangladesh signed three instruments with Myanmar for Rohingya repatriation considering Myanmar a friend and Myanmar also agreed to take the refugees back and create a conducive environment for their voluntary repatriation, safety and security.
“But unfortunately till today, no one went back and instead of creating a conducive environment, fighting and shelling are going on in the Rakhine state.”
Momen said Rohingyas are not returning to their homeland primarily because they do not trust their government regarding their safety and security. Dhaka had suggested Naypyidaw to engage non-military civilian observers from their friendly countries and organisations like ASEAN, China, Russia and India, saying it may reduce trust deficit for a sustainable return.
“We solicit support from our ARF partners so that these hapless Rohingyas can return to their home in safety, security and dignity, resettle there, and reintegrate in their society. Once they return to their homeland, they could be contributing members in the development of Myanmar.”
He said Asia-Pacific is the most dynamic region in the world in terms of economic growth and the main challenge for the ARF is to sustain the growth momentum. But the coronavirus pandemic now has become a big challenge.
The pandemic also proved that accumulation of stockpiles of weapons cannot save human lives; rather investment in medical and social areas can protect the mankind from Covid-19.
“May I draw your attention to the fact that once vaccine is developed, it must be available to all without discrimination?”
Momen also touched upon other challenges, including terrorism, climate change, irregular movement of people, drug trafficking, and transnational crimes, which can only be adequately and effectively addressed through mutual trust and cooperation underpinned by multilateral arrangements like ARF.
Bangladesh will always support the ARF initiatives regarding these issues, the foreign minister said.
“Let us work together to enhance the role of ARF in this trying time so that it can serve as the premier regional security forum in the Asia-Pacific region.”
Meanwhile, the UN’s eight Security Council members called on the Rohingyas, victims in 2017 of what the UN calls a “genocide,” to participate in Myanmar’s upcoming elections.
A statement in this regard, published after a closed-door video conference, was signed by Belgium, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Tunisia, Britain and the United States.
The signatories underlined their commitment to ensuring individuals from all communities, including the Rohingyas, were able to participate “safely, fully, and equally in credible and inclusive elections.”
They expressed concern about continuing clashes in Myanmar’s Rakhine and Chin States, calling for an “immediate cessation of hostilities.”
The statement from the eight countries urges Myanmar “to accelerate its efforts to address the long-term causes of the crisis in Rakhine and create conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary, sustainable, and dignified return of refugees.”