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21 February, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 21 February, 2019 02:21:19 AM

Myanmar should take Rohingyas back as its citizens: PM

Khaleej Times, Dubai
Myanmar should take Rohingyas back as its citizens: PM

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that Myanmar should take the responsibility and allow the Rohingya refugees to return as they are their citizens.

"We already have signed an agreement with the Myanmar government and they agreed to take them back. Unfortunately, it did not happen. We could not implement it," said Hasina in an interview with Khaleej Times.

Commenting on the slow progress of the Rohingya Repatriation Agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar last year, the prime minister said: "But unfortunately, the Myanmar government...they fail to create a congenial atmosphere to take them back. Some of these people are not feeling confident to go back. But I think it is the duty of the Myanmar government to create such an atmosphere so that these people should feel some kind of confidence to go back.”

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled the Buddhist-majority Myanmar in August 2017 and crossed over to Bangladesh to escape violence and ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar military.

International organisations have repeatedly reiterated that the conditions in Myanmar are not conducive for the safe and dignified return of Rohingya despite the bilateral agreement in place.

When asked whether the international community is doing enough to put pressure on Myanmar, Hasina said: “Actually they are trying. No doubt about it. But somehow, I don’t know why it is not working well.”

But the premier, who was lauded by the international community for her humanitarian gesture in hosting more than a million refugees despite the enormous strain on Bangladesh’s resources, said she was hopeful that “some day will come when Myanmar will also realise that this is not the way. They are their citizens and definitely they should take them back”.

Hasina rubbished allegations that her country was in a hurry to send back refugees despite the unsafe conditions.

“It is not true. But how long can people can live in a refugee camp? Those who are saying this, they have never been to a refugee camp. And perhaps, they have not lived as a refugee. But I can understand.”

Recalling her painful past when herself and her sister were forced to live as refugees when Bangladesh plunged into civil war in 1971, Hasina said: “Being a refugee and staying homeless...the sorrow and pain, we can understand that. Therefore, I understand that this people should go back to their own country. They should lead a better life.”

In an interview with Gulf News the prime minster alleged that a Bangladeshi expatriate in Dubai had paid money to an opposition party to be a candidate in Bangladesh parliament elections in last December.

“They [opposition party] nominated someone who lives in Dubai. He went to our embassy [in Abu Dhabi] to submit his nomination papers [but] they said we [embassy] cannot accept nomination and you should submit it to the returning officer [in Bangladesh],” she said. She said the embassy informed the matter to the Election Commission of Bangladesh.

“That gentleman [Dubai expat] became very upset at one stage and said I paid so much money to so and so in London…they told me I can submit my nomination papers here [embassy in UAE],” Shaikh Hasina said. She described this as an example for the opposition’s inefficiency. “This is the way they conducted the election [strategy/ campaign,]” the fourth-term Prime Minister said.

She was replying to a question about alleged irregularities in elections that gave her party a huge victory of 288 out of 300 seats in Parliament.  The premier said the opposition parties were not at all serious about the elections. “They nominated around 900 people – about 2- 3 people in one seat. If you nominate two-three people for a seat, how will you win?” Hasina alleged that when her opposition party The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and allies had won the 2001-elections, they antagonised all sections of the society, which led to declaration of emergency in the country.

About Rohingya crisis, the Prime Minister called for international efforts for the safe return of refugees to Myanmar.

Although Bangladesh continues to share ‘wonderful relationships’ with its neighbouring countries, Hasina mentioned about tensions with Myanmar, owing to an estimated 700,000 Rohingyas who have fled the Rakhine State for Bangladesh since August 2017 to avoid ethnic and religious persecution.

“Bangladesh has opened its border for the Rohingyas out of humanitarian consideration. However, our position from the very beginning remained the same, which is, Rohingyas must be able to return to their homes in Myanmar,” she said.

Although Bangladesh has signed agreements with Myanmar for the return of refugees, there was no concrete action on the part of Myanmar “towards ‘creating [a] conducive environment in the Rakhine State, or addressing the root causes of the Rohingya problem.” Therefore, she said, the implementation of the bilateral agreements would be impossible. “Clearly, the Rohingyas would only return is there is assurance of safety, security and dignity for them in Myanmar,” Hasina said.



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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