Rohingya repatriation: Dhaka seeks proactive role of Bangkok, Asean

The failure to repatriate the Rohingyas to their homes will jeopardize regional and international security, Foreign Minister Dr Momen tells outgoing Thai envoy

Bangladesh has sought a proactive role from Thailand as well as the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) with respect to the repatriation of 1.1 million Rohingyas from their temporary shelters in Cox’s Bazar, to the Rakhine state in Myanmar, an Asean member.

During a farewell meeting with Thai Ambassador in Dhaka Arunrung Phothong Humphreys on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen also thanked Thailand, a prominent Asean member, for the humanitarian support it extended to the Rohingyas, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

If the 1.1 million Rohingya people are left unattended and not given the opportunity to return to their homeland, they would jeopardize regional and international security, he said.

Dr Momen suggested that the Asean countries should put pressure on Myanmar, so that a conducive environment is created in the Rakhine state and the Rohingyas can return home immediately.

He also asked for Thai support on Bangladesh’s candidature for Asean Sectoral Dialogue Partner status.

In response, the outgoing Thai ambassador assured to flag Dhaka’s concerns on the Rohingya issues to her government as well as the Asean leadership, and expressed hope that this problem would be resolved soon.

The foreign minister described Thailand as an advanced economy and a development hub in the Asia Pacific region, saying that building physical connectivity and people-to-people contacts with this nation is Bangladesh’s foreign policy priority.

Pointing out that both countries are fellow members of different international organizations including Bimstec, he said that there are common strategic interests on a wide range of issues such as sustainable development, poverty alleviation, climate change adaptation and disaster management.

Considering the popularity of Thailand as a destination for medical tourism, Dr Momen said that it would be a win-win proposition if Thai entrepreneurs set up joint venture hospitals in Bangladesh.

He suggested that Thailand should consider investing in the Special Economic Zones in Bangladesh, where state-of-the-art facilities and one-stop services (OSS) are provided.

Ambassador Humphreys said that trade, connectivity, energy and development cooperation were key priorities of her mission in Dhaka.

She informed the minister that a three-year development program is in the process of implementation with funding from Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA). Agro-processing, rural development, environmental protection, women empowerment and human resource development are focus areas of the proposed TICA projects.

The envoy noted that Thailand has already a significant investment presence in Bangladesh and hoped that the negotiators of both countries would finalize the draft of the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and the two countries would be able to sign it soon.

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The envoy also separately called on President M Abdul Hamid, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam, and Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen