Bangladesh rejects local integration of Rohingyas

Masud critical of international entities appeasing Myanmar by meeting its demands to invest near Bangladesh border as it may make the crisis linger, prompt more Rohingyas to come to Bangladesh

Bangladesh rejects the idea of integrating Rohingyas with local communities as the crisis is an internal problem of Myanmar and the solution must be sought inside Myanmar, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen has said.

“I must clarify that we would certainly not prefer investments which will directly or indirectly prolong the refugee situation by creating new and greater pull factors for the remaining Rohingyas inside Rakhine. The Bangladesh government rejects any notion of local integration,” the foreign secretary said in a statement at a webinar on “Bangladesh’s Approach Towards Hosting Rohingya,” organized by the Centre of Peace Studies on Monday.

“We would expect interested partners to talk to the Myanmar government and make long-term investments on health, education, livelihood, connectivity for Rohingyas in northern Rakhine. So far, we discern no such efforts for the remaining Rohingyas inside Rakhine,” he said in reference to potential foreign investors.

The Rohingya crisis is a complete tale of the marginalization of a community from all aspects– economic, cultural, social and finally political, said Masud, adding that they were victims of a culture of persecution in Myanmar.

“As such, the solution to the crisis must be found in Rakhine and in Myanmar. This is Myanmar’s internal problem. The solution must therefore be sought inside Myanmar,” he told the webinar, which included foreign envoys, diplomats, and experts in related fields as participants.

The top diplomat of the country said the Rohingyas had taken refuge in Bangladesh to flee atrocities and Bangladesh had opened her door temporarily so that their lives could be saved.

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“But, they must go back to their country of origin. As earlier exoduses in 1978 and 1992-93 led to greater force of repression on their return, Bangladesh this time has been fully convinced of the need for creating conditions necessary for their sustainable return, so as to avoid similar episodes in the future,” he added.

“As for atrocities committed against them and violation of globally recognized principles, this is for the international community to examine and redress. The accountability aspects of the Rohingya thus make it an international issue. Important work is currently underway at the ICC (International Criminal Court) and ICJ (International Court of Justice) to pursue accountability and Justice,” he continued.

Bangladesh has from the very beginning tried to find a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis through bilateral consultation, said Masud.

“We engaged Myanmar early for sustainable repatriation in an environment of safety, security and dignity. As such, the bilaterally agreed Framework Arrangement and other instruments for repatriation are anchored in the restoration of normalcy, the creation of basic conditions for lives and livelihood, as well as voluntariness,” he said.

“At Myanmar’s insistence and the encouragement of a few other countries, Bangladesh tried repatriation twice. Failure of these efforts attest to the fact that Rohingyas do not feel comfortable in the prevailing conditions, which do not make returnees convinced of the sincerity of the Myanmar authorities and also of the majority community- the Buddhists of Rakhine,” he added, highlighting non-cooperation from Naypyitaw.

Bangladesh expects friends of Myanmar and other countries in the region to convince Myanmar of the imperative to make material changes in Rakhine- security-wise, and economically and politically, said the foreign secretary.

“Instead, many international interlocutors are found trying to appease Myanmar while heaping all their demands on the doorstep of Bangladesh, the second victim of the Rohingya crisis. We expect international partners to come forward to convince Myanmar to change course and to play their roles as agreed with Myanmar in the Framework Arrangement,” he said.

“We are now faced with a strategy on the part of the Myanmar authorities to do nothing to restore normalcy in Rakhine, but to create difficulty for prospective returnees, and finally to do whatever is needed to frustrate efforts for repatriation,” Masud said. “The international community should make sincere and greater efforts to secure conditions for the Rohingyas to return to Myanmar and reintegrate into Myanmar society, with a clear pathway to citizenship.”

Detailing the steps taken by the government to keep Rohingyas safe, including from Covid-19, and productive, Masud said that there could be other kinds of improvements to short-term amenities and facilities if adequate support from the international partners was available.

He also talked about risk factors due to the presence of a large number of Rohingyas, such as their creating a demographic imbalance, environmental degradation, the impact on agricultural production, pressure on water supply, health, a chance of radicalization of youth, and various crimes, including human trafficking, drugs, murder, abduction for ransom, sex trade, rape, theft and robbery.

Masud also explained the rationale for relocating some Rohingyas to Bhashan Char, saying that living there was safe.

The foreign secretary said a multilayered approach was needed to solve the crisis.

With respect to regional efforts, he said the role of ASEAN and the neighbours of Myanmar, such as India and China, as well as Japan and South Korea, would remain crucial in finding a durable solution to the problem.

About the multilateral approach, he said the issue needs to be monitored and the search for a solution should remain a priority for the United Nations’ engagements at the General Assembly, Security Council, Human Rights Council, and other relevant mechanisms and forums.

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sc: Dhaka Tribune