DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said the over 10 lakh Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar to her country in the wake of “persecution” are a “threat to the security” of the entire region as she urged the global community to resolve the issue.
According to the UN, as of May 24, 2018, more than 9,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s restive Rakhine State since 2017 after large-scale violence following a military crackdown. The exodus of refugees in large numbers has resulted in a major crisis in neighboring Bangladesh.
Addressing the three-day ‘Dhaka Global Dialogue-2019’ here, Hasina said, “In terms of regional security, I would like to say that more than 1.1 million Rohingya citizens of Myanmar fled to Bangladesh in the face of persecution and they are a threat to the security not only for Bangladesh but also for the region.”
“I urge the world community to take appropriate action realising the gravity of the threat. It will not be possible to ensure development and prosperity of any country without having peace and safety,” she was quoted as saying by the official Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) news agency.
The dialogue, which commenced on Monday, was jointly organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and India-based independent think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
Over 150 delegates from over 50 countries are taking part in the dialogue to discuss, ideate and debate the most pressing global imperatives.
Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen, ORF president Samir Saran and BIISS director general Major General AKM Abdur Rahman also spoke at the function.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Gambia filed a case Monday at the United Nations’ highest court accusing Myanmar of genocide in its campaign against its Rohingya Muslim minority and asking the International Court of Justice to urgently order measures “to stop Myanmar’s genocidal conduct immediately.”
Gambia filed the case on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Gambia’s justice minister and attorney general, Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, told The Associated Press he wanted to “send a clear message to Myanmar and to the rest of the international community that the world must not stand by and do nothing in the face of terrible atrocities that are occurring around us. It is a shame for our generation that we do nothing while genocide is unfolding right before our own eyes.”
Myanmar officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Myanmar’s military began a harsh counterinsurgency campaign against the Rohingya in August 2017 in response to an insurgent attack. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape what has been called an ethnic cleansing campaign involving mass rapes, killings and the torching of homes.
The head of a U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar warned last month that “there is a serious risk of genocide recurring.”
The mission also said in its final report in September that Myanmar should be held responsible in international legal forums for alleged genocide against the Rohingya.
Myanmar is to face accusations of genocide at the UN’s highest court over its treatment of Rohingya Muslims.
A 46-page application has been submitted to the international court of justice by the Gambia, alleging Myanmar has carried out mass murder, rape, and destruction of communities in Rakhine state.
If the ICJ takes up the case, it will be the first time the court in The Hague has investigated genocide claims on its own without relying on the findings of other tribunals, such as the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which is consulted for claims against Serbia and Croatia.
Under the rules of the ICJ, the application argues, member states can bring actions against other member states over disputes alleging breaches of international law – in this case the 1948 convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.
The Gambia, a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, has taken the legal lead in drafting the claim against Myanmar. It is being supported by other Muslim states. An initial hearing is expected at the ICJ in December.
In the application, the vice-president of the Gambia, Isatou Touray, describes her state as “a small country with a big voice on matters of human rights on the continent and beyond”.
In October 2016, Myanmar’s military began what it described as “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, according to the submission. “The genocidal acts committed during these operations were intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group … by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses,” it says.
Life in the world’s largest refugee camp has grown harder in the past few months. Mohammad, a Rohingya farmer who lost his leg fleeing violence in Myanmar, does not understand why.
“We got a lot more before in terms of food and help, but now it feels like we are not getting enough support from the government and NGOs. We are also more restricted in our movement,” he says, sitting on a bench outside his house, surrounded by discarded plastic bottles and rotting food.
The Bangladeshi government has launched a crackdown in the camp, shutting shops run by refugees, blocking internet services, confiscating mobile phones, putting up fencing and setting an 8pm curfew, meaning people can’t leave their homes at night.
Bangladesh appears to be getting frustrated with its more than 1 million guests. Politics is turning and it has been reported that locals in Cox’s Bazar are running out of patience. The government is finalising plans to move 100,000 refugees to an island in the Bay of Bengal and refugees wonder if it is all connected.
The state minister of foreign affairs, Shahriar Alam, said fencing was being put up for security reasons. “As far as the internet is concerned, 2G is still available. Due to the credible security concerns, [the] government has kept the internet access limited,” he says.
For Mohammad, the internet ban means that he has been unable to contact relatives in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. “I feel frustrated by it. Not just about being unable to contact people overseas, but I also cannot call my neighbors. If they are at the market I cannot say, for example: ‘Please bring me back something.’”
Along the dusty road running down the middle of the camp, a number of shops selling food, clothes and other items were shut by police in recent weeks. Their entrances are covered in green and blue tin shutters, and the wooden benches outside lie empty.
The head of the UN has called on Myanmar to take responsibility for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees and work towards their safe return to the country from Bangladesh.
A wave of refugees began fleeing Myanmar in late August after its response to an attack by Rohingya militants on more than 20 police posts that the government said left 12 members of the security forces dead.
Amnesty International said security forces then went on to carry out a “targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning”, which has been described by some as widespread ethnic cleansing.
More than 600,000 people fled the violence, bringing the total number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to around 900,000.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was speaking at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and said Myanmar should deal with the root causes of why so many Rohingya people fled the country.
Mr Guterres said that he is “deeply concerned about the situation in Myanmar, including Rakhine [where the refugees have fled from] state, and the plight of the massive number of refugees still living increasingly in difficult conditions”.
He added: “It remains, of course, Myanmar’s responsibility to address the root causes and ensure a conducive environment for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation of refugees to Rakhine state, in accordance with international norms and standards.”
Rights groups and NGOs say male rape victims are too ashamed to talk about their ordeal and they have been largely overlooked.
Some Rohingya men and boys who escaped Myanmar’s military campaign two years ago have said they were sexually abused by security forces.
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslim minority fled to Bangladesh in the wake of the brutal campaign led by Myanmar military in August 2017.
Since then many of them, who live in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, have suffered in silence, unable to share their trauma, because of extreme shame and stigma.
“They took me into an open space in a valley nearby and beat me up badly. Then I was raped, just like they would rape a woman, they kept me there till 4 in the morning,” a 41-year-old Rohingya told Al Jazeera.
“The very thought of this brutal experience makes me go into severe depression, I feel so traumatised. I go through much mental anguish and pain most of the time. It’s unbearable,” he added.
Research by the US-based Women’s Refugee Commission in Myanmar also indicates, “there was systematic targeted premeditated sexual violence committed against men and boys, while they were in Myanmar.”
A 45-year-old man said he was sexually assaulted by Myanmar troops in 2006, since then he has also suffered from chronic depression.
A draft of the statement to be issued after the East Asia Summit in Bangkok early next month makes no mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to a copy of the communique seen by Kyodo News on Sunday.
According to diplomatic sources of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Myanmar strongly pressed that the issue not be included in the statement, which was drawn up by Thailand and will be issued after the Nov 4 summit, which includes major Asian nations as well as others such as the United States, Russia, China and Japan.
Myanmar appears to hold in disfavour interference by the United States, which earlier this year imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military leaders over extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims.
n contrast, according to the draft of the chairman’s statement to be issued after the next weekend’s Asean summit, the leaders reiterate “the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution” to the root causes of the conflict.
Thailand is the current chair of the 10-member Asean, which also includes Myanmar.
At last year’s EAS held in Singapore, the leaders from the 18 countries expressed “concern” about the humanitarian situation and readiness to support the repatriation process. In the previous year’s summit in Manila, they voiced support for humanitarian assistance.
Bangladesh on Tuesday sent Myanmar a fresh list of some 50,000 Rohingya refugees currently taking shelter in the country’s Cox’s Bazar refugee camp.
With the new list, Dhaka has provided the names of some 105,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar over three phases, in order to expedite their repatriation process to Myanmar.
Bangladesh had earlier handed over a list of 55,000 Rohingya refugees to Myanmar for verification over two phases.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed in August an agreement to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingya refugees over the next two years.
However, two planned repatriation arrangements came to halt after Rohingya refugees were unwilling to return to Myanmar, citing security issues in Rakhine State.
Rohingya people have been demanding proper security and citizenship before complying with the repatriation process.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled “Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience.”
With a pleading that Myanmar must manifest a clear political will for sustainable return and reintegration of Rohingyas to their homeland, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has placed a four-point proposal before the august 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to resolve the protracted Rohingya crisis.
“The Rohingya crisis is now becoming a regional threat”, said Sheikh Hasina, seeking expeditious interventions from the international community for a permanent solution to the crisis.
“Myanmar must manifest clear political will supported by concrete actions for sustainable return and reintegration of Rohingyas to Myanmar,” she said in her first proposal while delivering the country statement in the General Debate of the 74th UNGA Session.
Sheikh Hasina delivered the statement in Bangla like every year in the past at the General Assembly Hall in the UN Headquarters here on Friday afternoon local time.
This year’s theme of the general debate is “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion”.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria was elected the President of the 74th UNGA Session.
In her second proposal, the premier said that Myanmar must build trust among the Rohingyas by discarding discriminatory laws and practices and allowing ”go and see” visit to the Northern Rakhine by the Rohingya representatives.
“Myanmar must guarantee security and safety of the Rohingyas by deploying ivilian monitors from international community in the Rakhine State,” she said in her third proposal.
The premier in her last proposal said the international community must ensure that the root causes of Rohingya problem area addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.
Myanmar’s government is pushing for the more than 1 million Rohingya refugees currently in Bangladesh to start returning to the country, in an effort to project an image of peace and reconciliation to the outside world. Yet as grim as the situation is for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, where they live in what is now the world’s largest refugee settlement, their prospects back in Myanmar are even worse.
It is little surprise, then, that few if any Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, have taken up the offer. This is Myanmar’s second attempt at facilitating the repatriation of Rohingya after an earlier effort failed last November. Bangladesh’s government, which supports repatriation, has been making life harder for Rohingya refugees in the country. In early September, it shut off mobile internet access in refugee camps, a move condemned by human rights groups because it could make it more difficult to deliver humanitarian services.
The Bangladeshi government desperately wants to close the overcrowded camps, fearing major disease outbreaks, but only if Rohingya refugees leave the country and do not integrate into Bangladeshi society. It fears the refugees’ impacts on the job market and social stability.
Tensions are rising in the area around the massive refugee camps near the city of Cox’s Bazar, just over the border from Myanmar. On Aug. 22, a group of Rohingya refugees allegedly murdered a local Bangladeshi politician; Bangladeshi police officers then killed four Rohingya refugees. As Human Rights Watch noted, the police claimed the Rohingya were killed in “crossfire,” a phrase often used by security forces in Bangladesh in cases of extrajudicial execution. A mob also recently attacked shops frequented by Rohingya, while prominent Bangladeshis are leading a campaign to ring all the camps in barbed wire. Earlier this month, after massive flooding, aid agencies launched one of their biggest emergency responses in the camps.