Bangladesh home boss to travel to Myanmar

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - As Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to draw up a plan for the return of Rohingyas, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal is expected to visit the neighbouring country this month to discuss the refugee repatriation, among other issues of bilateral interest.

As Bangladesh and Myanmar have agreed to draw up a plan for the return of Rohingyas, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal is expected to visit the neighbouring country this month to discuss the refugee repatriation, among other issues of bilateral interest.

Foreign ministry officials and the Bangladesh mission in Yangon are working with their Myanmarese counterparts to finalise the meeting agenda, Kamal said yesterday.

The Rohingya issue will dominate the minister-level meeting, which will also discuss the smuggling of narcotics, including yaba, into Bangladesh, he said.

"The Rohingya issue will be a key topic on the agenda. We'll discuss the problem. We believe we will be able to help Rohingyas return to their homeland through diplomatic efforts."

The home boss was briefing reporters after a meeting of National Smuggling Prevention Committee at his ministry.

On October 2, Myanmar's Union Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe visited Dhaka and offered to take back the Myanmarese nationals.

During bilateral talks that day, the two countries agreed to form a joint working group to start the repatriation process for all the Rohingyas sheltered in Bangladesh.

The home minister said Bangladesh wants to repatriate all Rohingyas to Myanmar, as the Myanmar's minister has pledged to take back their citizens.

Diplomatic sources said Kamal was scheduled to visit Myanmar much earlier. But it was deferred due to developments in Rakhine in late August.

A military crackdown began in response to insurgent attacks on some 30 police posts and an army base on August 25, forcing over 5,15,000 Rohingyas to cross over into Bangladesh.

Before this influx, Bangladesh was hosting about 3,00,000 of the Myanmarese nationals who entered the country in various phases.

A senior official at the foreign ministry yesterday told The Daily Star that the home minister's visit will help take forward the negotiations with Myanmar.

“There was important discussion over border and security issues during the visit of Myanmar's union minister on October 2,” he said, adding that some instruments on better border management are ready to get final shape during the visit.

Some sources, however, claim that Dhaka is not very optimistic about any sudden change in Rohingya situation since the forcibly displaced people continue to stream towards the border while violence continues in Rakhine. 

Myanmar assured Bangladesh and the international community that it was stopping the exodus, but the latest video footage from inside Myanmar shows half-buried corpses, villages burning and desperate people fleeing through the mountains.

The videos also appeared to contradict claims of Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi that security forces ended their operations on September 5, reports Australia's ABC News.

Union minister Kyaw Tint Swe, too, during his Dhaka visit categorically stated that there has been no military operation since September 5.

But footage sent to ABC News allegedly shows security forces and vigilantes burning Muslim homes in the town of Maungdaw as recently as Thursday night.

Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali is also expected to visit Myanmar as Aung San Suu Kyi has invited him to the 13th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting scheduled for November 20-21.

But, some sources say, his visit depends on outcome of the home minister's meeting.

At a separate programme in Banani, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said Bangladesh would keep its border open for Rohingyas until violence stops in Rakhine.

The decision had been made on humanitarian grounds, he added.

Quader, also the roads and bridges minister, added the UN should take a strong stance to prevent a fresh influx.

REFUGEE REGISTRATION

As many as 91,423 Rohingyas have been brought under the biometric registration, said the home minister, adding some 9,000 are being registered every day.

Highlighting the importance of biometric registration, the minister said the Rohingyas who will not be registered will not be able to receive domestic and international aid.

He added that the government has taken stern position against smuggling and will install scanning machines at all 16 land ports to curb smuggling and infiltration of all sorts of illegal items into the country.

TIB CONDEMNS 'UN FAILURE'

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has strongly condemned the UN failure to take into cognisance and act upon the report of an independent expert it commissioned before the military crackdown in Rakhine.

TIB expressed deep disappointment that the UN not only suppressed the report it received in May  but also ignored the prediction that security forces were going to be “heavy-handed and indiscriminate” in dealing with the Rohingyas, which came true in August-September.

TIB termed it an unacceptable offence that the global body deliberately shelved the recommendation to be coherent and undertake serious contingency plan against the impending violation of human rights.

In a statement issued yesterday, TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, "We call upon the UN to explain this inaction, particularly the inability of UN to practise what it preaches. No one, not least the UN, can be above accountability."

TIB demanded disclosing the report for public information and those responsible for the failure to act in a manner that could have prevented the worst possible form of pre-planned and massive violation of human rights must be brought to justice, he said.

Iftekharuzzaman further said the UN should now have the courage to explain the reasons behind suppressing such a hugely important report and deliberately missing the opportunity to prevent what UN itself later described a "textbook case of ethnic cleansing".

FRESH WAVE

Meantime, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK in a statement on Saturday said starvation caused by Myanmar's military and government restrictions will create a new wave of Rohingyas escaping to Bangladesh.

Thousands more will leave their hometowns and face harder conditions in the coming days and weeks. Crops are ready to harvest and those remaining in the area are prospective nominees of forced labour since the Rohingya farmers left the state.

The Rohingyas still in Myanmar now face pressure from the military to buy the livestock stolen from those who have fled. The cost now is triple the market value and the threat of arrest for refusing also frightens the people.

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