Denouncing the atrocities unleashed by the military in Rakhine State as “acts against humanity and violation of human rights”, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said Myanmar must take back its citizens now sheltered in Bangladesh.
“Myanmar has to take back its nationals and give them a safe place to live in their homeland. The international community should put pressure on Myanmar as it is committing such atrocities against Rohingya people … this has to be stopped,” she added.
Bangladesh wants to maintain peace and good relations with its neighbouring countries, but it cannot accept the “unjust acts” the Myanmar government is committing, she said, urging Naypyidaw to end the persecution of Rohingya minorities.
The prime minister made the remarks while visiting a registered Rohingya camp and distributing relief among the refugees at Kutupalong Bazar in Ukhia, Cox’s Bazar.
“Still, the fire is burning there … people can’t find their family members … the bodies of infants and women are floating on the Naf River — these go completely against humanity and are violation of human rights. What sin and crimes have these innocent children, women and people committed? We can’t tolerate such activities.”
Hasina said Bangladesh protests the inhumane attitude towards the Rohingya people in Myanmar. “They are its citizens … it will have to ensure security of these people so that they can stay safe in their country.”
Also condemning the terror attacks on Myanmar’s police posts and a military base on August 25, the prime minister said her government will never allow any insurgent to use Bangladesh soil against its neighbours.
“I’ll ask the Myanmar government to find out the real culprits, and as a neighbouring country, we’ll help them in this regard,” she said.
Blasting the Myanmar insurgents, the PM said it is their misdeeds that led to the current crisis.
“Let the [insurgent] elements see how an abnormal situation has been created … how their near and dear ones are becoming victims of torture and how the children and women are suffering,” she asked and called for steps to stop recurrence of such incidents.
She, however, said her government cannot accept intimidation of women and children in the name of a clampdown on terrorists.
The prime minister called for creating a “safe zone”, if necessary, inside Myanmar under the UN supervision to protect the innocents. “The full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission may help in this regard,” she said.
Earlier, on her arrival at the Kutupalong refugee camp, the prime minister saw for herself the condition of the Myanmar nationals staying there.
She talked to the refugees who escaped torture, shooting and torching of villages in Myanmar over the last two weeks. They burst into tears before her while narrating their sufferings.
About 3,70,000 Rohingyas crossed into Bangladesh as attacks by an insurgent group in the north of Rakhine last month provoked a military counter-offensive that refugees say is aimed at pushing the minorities out.
The UN human rights chief on Monday castigated the “cruel military operation” against Rohingya, branding it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
LOOK AFTER THEM
The prime minister also distributed relief among the Myanmar nationals and assured them of her government’s continued humanitarian assistance. She said the government will keep them providing with food and medical treatment and there will be no problem in this regard.
“We must stay beside the Myanmar refugees and extend all kinds of help to them . . . as long as they don’t return to their country we will remain beside them,” she said.
“Bangladesh is a country of 16 crore people and we’ve ensured their basic needs. We have also the capability of providing all kinds of help, including food and healthcare services, to the Myanmarese refugees.”
The PM renewed her call upon international community to mount pressures on Myanmar authorities to stop torture on its ethnic minority population and take back the Myanmar refugees from Bangladesh.
“They [Rakhine refugees] are human beings and they will live as human beings …. Why will they sustain such miseries?” she said.
Hasina drew Myanmar’s attention to the fact that the massive exodus of its own population was tarnishing its image, saying this is not a matter of honour for any country.
Bangladesh was faced with protracted insurgency problems in its southeastern hills, she said, mentioning that its 64,000 refugees from India returned after the landmark 1996 peace agreement. “We hope, Myanmar will take steps ensuring the return of its nationals.”
The prime minister also requested locals to look after the Myanmar refugees.
“The people in the neighbourhood, especially the youths, may not recall the Liberation War but we the elderly people still remember it. So we expect you to look after them,” she said, apparently in reference of the massive refugee outflow from Bangladesh in 1971.
The prime minister mentioned that many international organisations extended their helping hands to the Myanmarese refugees while “we have constituted relief committees who are providing relief materials to the refugees”.
Besides, the PM said, the ruling Awami League, local administration, army and other law enforcement agencies were providing humanitarian services to the refugees.
Hasina said the government was collecting name, address and identity of the Myanmar refugees.
“We understand their problems and it’s our responsibility to look after them…” she said.
Prime minister’s younger sister Sheikh Rehana, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Housing and Public Works Minister Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Chief Whip ASM Firoz and Army Chief General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq were present.
The prime minister directed the officials of civil administration, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and other government organisations to ensure coordination while dealing with the Myanmar refugees.
She asked the cabinet secretary to work on it in consultation with the Prime Minister’s Office so that the entire relief operation and refugee management could be handled in a planned way.
The Prime Minister gave the directives while exchanging views with public representatives, civil and military officials and local leaders of Cox’s Bazar at the district circuit house.
Referring to various mega projects taken in Cox’s Bazar, Sheikh Hasina said the security of foreign investors is a very important issue and the government must ensure it.
The Prime Minister directed the Army to strengthen its patrol and monitoring in the region alongside other agencies like BGB, Rab, police and Coast Guard so that no one can engage in any terrorist acts.
About the ongoing registration process of the Myanmar nationals, Hasina instructed the authorities concerned to prepare ID cards for the refugees.