YANGON—International Cooperation Minister U Kyaw Tin strongly objected to Bangladesh’s labeling of the Rakhine issue as ethnic cleansing and genocide during a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Baku.
Responding to remarks made by the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister on the Rakhine issue at the meeting on Wednesday, U Kyaw Tin told NAM ministers that the Rakhine issue is not one of driving an ethnic group out of the country, as wrongfully alleged, according to a Myanmar Foreign Affairs Ministry press release.
The preparatory ministerial meeting of the 18th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the NAM was held over two days in the capital of Azerbaijan, attended by foreign ministers and representatives of NAM member states. The NAM is a forum of 120-member states from the developing world.
U Kyaw Tin said the crisis in Rakhine is a political and economic issue involving cross-border migration that began in British colonial times. While the migration problem was compounded by poverty, lack of rule of law and security in the region, there has been a deep-rooted history of tensions, mutual mistrust and fear between the local ethnic communities and the migrant community, he said.
He said that while the issue of Rakhine is very complex, and while the communities involved require time and space to build trust and harmony, Myanmar stands ready to resolve the issue with the cooperation of Bangladesh based on the bilateral agreement signed between two countries.
He added that what is happening in the northern tip of Rakhine does not represent the whole country. In the remaining areas of the country, people of different faiths are living in harmony, he said.
On the same day in Tokyo, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told Nikkei Asian Review that the crackdown that drove the Rohingya to Bangladesh was a response to a “terrorist attack.” She added that while Myanmar understands international concerns about human rights, it is disappointed that the international community has paid very little attention to the terrorist element of the problems in Rakhine.
Some 730,000 displaced persons from northern Rakhine State in Myanmar fled to neighboring Bangladesh amid the Myanmar military’s clearance operations following coordinated attacks on security outposts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in August 2017. ARSA has been declared a terrorist group by the government. The UN has described the crisis as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and international observers have described it as “genocide.” Myanmar rejects both terms.
Bangladeshi media reported that the Bangladeshi foreign minister expressed dissatisfaction over Myanmar’s role in solving the Rohingya crisis during the ministerial meeting in Baku.
According to reports, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told the NAM ministers that Myanmar had not created a congenial environment in Rakhine State to take back the Rohingya, despite their commitments.
He also said the perpetrators of crimes against the Rohingya should be held accountable to prevent a recurrence of the Rohingya crisis.
In response to his remarks, U Kyaw Tin told Bangladesh not to turn a blind eye to the presence of ARSA terror groups and hardline groups inside the camps in Cox’s Bazaar who do not want repatriation but exert international pressure to advance their political agenda and intimidate those advocating for return. German international broadcaster DW reported last month that Rohingya militants are active in the refugee camps and have allegedly threatened those who defy them, but the Bangladesh government claims there is no ARSA presence in the camp.
“The most pressing task between the two neighbors is to work together under the agreed mechanisms to remove all the obstacles hindering repatriation,” he said.
He also said that despite Myanmar’s repeated request, Bangladesh has not sent back 444 Hindu displaced persons who have clearly expressed their desire to return.
Myanmar and Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement in November 2017 but implementation has failed repeatedly and both sides blame the other for the delay.
So far, fewer than 400 people, including 29 who returned on Tuesday, have voluntarily returned to Rakhine State, independently of bilateral agreement procedures established between the two countries. These Rohingya have returned either by boat or on foot across the border, according to the Maungdaw District General Administration Department.
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