Friday, July 24, 2009

Bangladesh Minister pressurizes Burmese envoy on Rohingya issue

Dhaka, Bangladesh (KPN): Bangladesh’s Food and Disaster Management Minister, Dr. Mohammed Abdur Razzak has raised the Rohingya refugee issue with Burmese Ambassador, Phae Thann Oo, seeking an immediate solution through regular diplomatic meetings, a senior government official said yesterday.

Rohingya boatpeople died in Andaman Sea on a drifting boat (photo)

Dr. Mohammed Abdur Razzak pointed out the urgency during a discussion with Burmese Ambassador, Phae Thann Oo, at his office, the official said.

“Regular meetings at diplomatic levels between both the friendly countries should be held to solve the problems related to these issues, which will strengthen the existing friendly relations,” the Minister told the envoy.

“Bangladesh gave shelter to the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds and created scope for them to earn their living as per the ability of the country, though many of them got mixed up with the locals,” the minister added.

The Burmese Ambassador agreed on the Rohingya refugee issue with Dr Razzak and said they would soon send in a delegation to the Cox’s Bazaar camp housing the refugees.

“The problem regarding Rohingya refugees is no longer a problem only for Bangladesh, it is a regional issue. And it would be a bigger problem for the region in future,” said Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, at another discussion meeting on 'The Rohingyas: From stateless to refugee', which was organized by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) at its office in the city, with its Director General Maj Gen. Sheikh Md Monirul Islam as chairperson yesterday.

There are still at least 0.2 million undocumented Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, besides those living in the camps, though they were supposed to have returned to Myanmar in 1978 and 1992, under an agreement between the two countries, said Prof Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, of the Department of International Relations of Dhaka University, while presenting keynote speech at a panel discussion.

He said, “It has been a problem for the country year after year and remains the same and there has been no change in the situation. Thailand, India and Indonesia have already got involved in the issue and we had hoped there would be some change this time. There has to be international pressure to resolve the problem.”

Prof Anwar Hossain said, “Multi-dimensional effort is necessary to address the problem regarding Rohingya refugees. Firstly, the problem is humanitarian, then demographical and it is also concerned with the security of the country. The only way out is to address the problem multilaterally with the involvement of regional countries.

Former Defence Attaché of Bangladesh to Myanmar Brig Gen (retd) Salim Akhtar said, “Bangladesh provides support to the Rohingya refugees in terms of their skill development and education and the government should also track down the undocumented refugees, because they may get involved in international gunrunning and militancy and the country also suggests bringing the Rohingya leaders to the negotiating table to understand the realities of the situation and finding out a key solution.”

Ambassadors of Indonesia, India and Thailand were also present at the discussion and felt the necessity of a combined regional effort to solve the problem.

“Camps are expensive to run. Camps are also discriminatory for the Bangladeshi people living around the area where the Rohingya camps are located,” Arjun Jain, acting representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dhaka said.

"The issue has become a forgotten matter in the global context and the international community should pay more attention to it," said Arjun Jain.

“We had come here to escape the persecution of the ruling Burmese junta, a long time ago and now we have more than 1.5 million people all over the world. We don’t want to stay in any other country if we get all the facilities as the other ethnic groups of Burma. We need the support of the international community to get this opportunity,” said Aman, a Rohingya politician from Bangladesh.

Rohingya boatpeople reached Indonesia shore with drifting boat (photo)

“There is no security in Arakan, Burma, so we came to Bangladesh. We were not safe here too, so we tried to find a safe place by the sea route, where our community lost thousands of lives in the Andaman Sea last winter,” he added.

23 July 2009

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