Bangladeshi PM Slams US Congressman’s Proposal

By Muktadir Rashid   9 July 2019

DHAKA—Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday rejected a U.S. congressman’s idea to recognize Rakhine State as Bangladeshi territory over Myanmar’s denial of citizenship rights to the ethnic Rohingya that have long occupied the land.

In a U.S. congressional hearing, Congressman Bradley Sherman, chairman of the Sub-committee on Asia Pacific, proposed bringing Myanmar’s Rakhine State under Bangladeshi territory in response to the stalemate over Rohingya repatriation.

“We are happy to have existing territory and we never expect to grab others’ land,” Bangladesh’s longest serving prime minister told reporters at a press conference held at her official residence on Monday.

In the U.S. congressional hearing, a U.S. State Department official responded similarly, telling the congressman that the traditional U.S. position has been to support the territorial sovereignty of countries.

“Myanmar will retain her sovereignty, as will Bangladesh,” Hasina said on Monday, ultimately coming down hard on the U.S. congressman. “Why do they want to include Rakhine in Bangladesh? I believe this type of proposal is reprehensible and unjust,” she said.

“Why should we include a trouble-prone area within us? I will never do it.”

“On the other hand,” she said, “Myanmar is our neighbor. Yes, when there was a problem inside Myanmar, we sheltered their people on humanitarian grounds, [but] sheltering does not mean we take over a part of their state. We do not want it. We want each country to enjoy their sovereignty, and the congressman should consider that,” she added.

Separately on Monday, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson also dismissed the idea of ceding northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh, saying such a proposal offers no pathway to a sustainable solution.

Hasina’s press conference followed a five-day official visit to China she took last week, where she attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Dalian, China on July 2.

After, she held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang in Beijing on July 4 and 5, respectively, and met separately with Communist Party of China Minister for International Affairs Song Tao. Hasina reportedly spoke with the Chinese leaders about Rohingya resettlement.

Bangladeshi media reported that Chinese officials said they would help Bangladesh solve the crisis by trying to convince Myanmar to resettle the refugees.

Also at the forum, Bangladesh and China signed nine agreements, including two over loans, further strengthening cooperation in the energy, water, culture and tourism sectors. China also pledged to provide 2,500 tons of rice to the displaced Rohingya.

However, Hasina did not offer specifics on a repatriation plan for the more than one million Rohingya refugees languishing in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district near the Myanmar border.

The refugees fled after violent crackdowns from the Myanmar military that the UN has called “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.”

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