Dhaka fears that Rohingya crisis can frustrate the hope for regional peace and stability if the issue is not resolved at the earliest.
“Our fear is that, if this problem is not resolved quickly, it may lead to pockets of radicalism and since terrorists have no borders, no faith, there’s a high possibility of uncertainty which may frustrate our hope for a peaceful, secure and stable region,” Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said at the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) held virtually today.
He said Bangladesh sheltered some 1.1 million Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds despite the threat to the country’s economy, ecology and societal impacts, and is keen on solving the crisis through constructive diplomacy with good neighbourly spirit.
Bangladesh signed 3 instruments with Myanmar for repatriation of the Rohingyas considering it a friend and Myanmar also agreed to take them back and create a conducive environment for their voluntary repatriation, safety and security, the minister said.
“But unfortunately, none went back till now, and instead of creating a conducive environment, fighting and shelling is ongoing in the Rakhaine state.”
Momen also said Rohingyas are not returning to their homeland primarily because they do not trust the Myanmar government of ensuring their safety and security. Dhaka had suggested Naypyidaw engage non-military civilian observers from their countries they consider friendly like China, Russia, India, and ASEAN member states that 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, to resettle and reintegrate in their society. Once they return to their homeland they could become contributing members in the development of Myanmar,” the minister added.
Terming Asia-Pacific as the most dynamic region in the world in terms of economic growth, the foreign minister said the main challenge of the ARF is to sustain the growth momentum.
But the coronavirus pandemic has now become a big challenge, he said, adding that the pandemic also proved that accumulation of stockpiles of weapons cannot save human lives, rather investment in medical and social areas can protect mankind from the likes of Covid-19.
“May I draw your attention that once vaccine is developed, it must be available to all without discrimination?” Momen said.
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 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,” he added.