Rohingya Crisis: Bangladesh wants strong UNSC stance
Dhaka wants the UN Security Council to take "strong stance and swift action" to end the "ethnic cleansing" in Myanmar and to restore peace and stability in the strife-torn Rakhine State to facilitate a smooth return of Rohingyas.
"We expect such concrete steps through which the forcibly displaced people from Myanmar return to their homeland smoothly and without any fear," Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali said yesterday.
He made the comment after briefing the Dhaka-based diplomats of the Security Council member countries ahead of the UNSC's meeting today to discuss the violence in Myanmar and hear a briefing from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the crisis.
Bangladesh will put across its case to the UN Security Council debate as countries which are not UNSC members can also give their speeches in the open debate beginning today.
Britain, France, the US and four other countries -- Sweden, Egypt, Senegal, and Kazakhstan -- have requested the meeting after around half a million Rohingyas, fled a military crackdown in Myanmar since August 25 and crossed into Bangladesh.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has called the security operation as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and French President Emmanuel Macron last week went further, calling it "genocide."
The diplomatic briefing held at state guesthouse Meghna was attended by the envoys of five UNSC permanent members -- the US, the UK, France, Russia and China -- and four non-permanent members -- Japan, Italy, Sweden and Egypt.
Highly placed diplomatic sources told The Daily Star yesterday that the foreign minister sought firm support from Security Council member countries and wanted them to stand by Bangladesh across its case.
Amid fear that China and Russia may veto any strong statement or resolution, which may come out from the UNSC meeting, Dhaka had hectic talks with the envoys of the two countries in Dhaka and New York.
Bangladeshi envoys also met foreign ministry officials in Moscow and Beijing to persuade them to refrain from any move against the ongoing humanitarian crisis which is adversely affecting Bangladesh.
THE BIG QUESTION
The UN refugee chief yesterday said the "big question" regarding some 800,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh was whether they would be allowed to return to their homeland, reports Reuters.
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UHCR), said he hoped to discuss the matter with Myanmar officials in Geneva next week but recognised it was a "very complex issue".
"It is very clear that the cause of this crisis is in Myanmar, but that the solution of this crisis also lies in Myanmar," Grandi told a news conference in Geneva on his return from Bangladesh.
He called on the Myanmar authorities to end the violence in northern Rakhine state so that solutions to the situation could be discussed.
'ALL COUNTRIES SUPPORTIVE'
After the diplomatic briefing, the foreign minister told reporters that all the countries had sympathy and support for Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue.
"Bangladesh wants a peaceful solution. We don't want to get involved in any conflict," he said.
He said the five-point proposal made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the UNGA would be the base of Bangladesh's voice in the open UNSC debate today with further elaboration.
Ali confirmed that the State Counsellor's Office of Myanmar was sending their minister who wanted to meet the PM.
"You know the Prime Minister is now in the USA," he said, indicating that Bangladesh wanted to wait until her return.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Security Council members got an update on the situation in Myanmar.
The Security Council earlier this month called for "immediate steps" to end the violence, following a closed-door meeting.
In a rare step earlier this month, the UN chief sent a letter to the Security Council to express concern about the "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding, raising fears that it could have "implications for peace and security" beyond Myanmar's borders.
MYANMAR GOVT TO TAKE OVER BURNED LAND
The Myanmar government will manage the redevelopment of villages torched during violence in Rakhine state, a minister was reported on Wednesday as saying.
The plan for the redevelopment of areas destroyed by fires, which the government has blamed on Rohingya insurgents, is likely to raise concern about the prospects for the return of refugees, and compound fears of ethnic cleansing, Reuters reported yesterday.
Human rights groups using satellite images have said that about half of more than 400 Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine state have been burned in the violence.
"According to the law, burnt land becomes government-managed land," Minister for Social Development, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye told a meeting in the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.
Win Myat Aye also heads a committee tasked with implementing recommendations on solving Rakhine's long-simmering tensions.
Following the violence, those who could not cross into Bangladesh are hiding in jungles with little food and water.
Little aid has made it to northern Rakhine since the UN had to suspend operations because of the fighting and after the government suggested its food was sustaining insurgents. Convoys organised by the Red Cross have twice been stopped and searched by hostile ethnic Rakhines in the state capital Sittwe.
Those who remain are playing a cat-and-mouse game with the soldiers, who come to the village in the morning prompting the residents to hide in the forest and return at night.
In U Shey Kya, where last October Rohingya residents accused the Myanmar army of raping several women, a teacher who spoke to Reuters from the village by phone said only about 100 families out of 800 households have stayed behind.
"We don't even have food to eat for this evening. What can we do?" said the teacher. "We are close to the forest where we have leaves we can eat and find some water to survive."
He refused to give his name because he had been warned by the authorities not to talk to reporters.