Dhaka, Oct 7 – Bangladesh continues its strong international lobbying keeping the bilateral door open to ‘peacefully resolve’ the Rohingya issue at the earliest, says a top government official.
“We’re strongly lobbying. National interest comes first. At the same time, we keep the door of bilateral means open to solve the issue,” the official told UNB indicating that resuming bilateral discussion with Myanmar does not mean that Bangladesh stopped its efforts internationally.
The Myanmar government has said they are ready to begin the verification and repatriation of its nationals crossed over to Bangladesh.
Amid international pressure, Myanmar sent its Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe on October 2 to discuss the matter with Bangladesh.
“There’s no contradiction in keeping the door open for bilateral discussions, absolutely not. But, there’s no path but to bring in a strong resolution if problems are not solved bilaterally,” said the government source.
Bangladesh and Myanmar on Monday agreed to form a joint working group to start the repatriation process of all the Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, which Dhaka sees as a ‘progress’.
“It’s true both sides agreed to proceed. But, Bangladesh needs to make sure Myanmar comes up with names for the composition of the joint working group without any delay,” a diplomatic source told UNB.
Bangladesh has already proposed a bilateral agreement with Myanmar to facilitate the implementation of repatriation process and a draft of the proposed deal has also been handed over to the Myanmar side at the meeting.
“We need to see how Myanmar responds to the proposal. I don’t know yet about Myanmar’s feedback,” said the diplomatic source.
Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali said Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan will soon visit Myanmar which will help take forward the negotiations with Myanmar.
Myanmar mentioned that in accordance with the agreed criteria set out in the Joint Statement between Foreign Ministers of Myanmar and Bangladesh on April 28, 1992, a total of 236,495 people of 46,993 households had been repatriated from Bangladesh to Myanmar from September 1992 until July 2005, according to the office of the State Counsellor.
The Union Minister also referred to the agreement made at the senior officials meeting between Myanmar and Bangladesh held in Yangon on January 14, 2000, in which both sides agreed that, in the case of the repatriation of split families and their left behind family members, this process could be carried out on the presentation of legal documents certified by the Government of Bangladesh.
Now Myanmar says issues arising between the two neighbours can be resolved “bilaterally, in an amicable manner, taking into consideration the national interests” of both the countries.
A foreign ministry official said Bangladesh wants to see a sustainable solution to the Rohingya crisis as the country is currently facing a ‘severe crisis’ due to the influx of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.
Since August 25, more than half a million Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh to flee ethnic cleansing in their own country.
Despite our space and resource constraint Bangladesh has given them shelter solely on humanitarian consideration.
“Despite having our own problems and challenges, Bangladesh has given them shelter. Everybody has appreciated Bangladesh’s approach to that end,” a senior foreign ministry official said.
In fact, Bangladesh had been hosting nearly 400,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar for three decades before the current influx began.
“The protracted presence of these forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals in our country is creating a multidimensional problem for us,” Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said recently.
He said Bangladesh believes in a peaceful settlement of the international dispute and accordingly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has presented her five-point proposal in the UN General Assembly.
“In line with that we would like to peacefully resolve this issue at the earliest possible,” said Minister Ali.
Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque, during his interaction in New Delhi on Thursday, said Bangladesh will continue its efforts to resolve the issue peacefully paying no heed to any ‘provocations’.
Talking to UNB, head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid Ambassador Manuel Bessler who visited Bangladesh recently said there are three solutions to such a large-scale displacement, and the best solution is their return to their homeland with safety and dignity.
“You’ve three solutions (for this displacement) — return, integration and settlement in the third country. The best solution is, of course, to bring people back to their homeland where they grew up and where they had their houses,” he said.
An update to the UN response plan was released a couple of days back, seeking $430 million which is urgently needed to scale up the relief operation in support of the Rohingyas and the host communities where they are seeking refuge.
In support of this, an additional US$12 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has been allocated to assist in the establishment of new sites for the newly arrived refugees. – UNB