Rohingya Repatriation: Dhaka seeks ASEAN intervention
Dhaka has sought ASEAN intervention in Rohingya repatriation by building trust and dispelling their sense of uncertainty over returning to Myanmar.
"I would like to urge the ASEAN member states to intervene in the matter and help the repatriation process," said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen yesterday while addressing the 54th ASEAN Day event organised virtually by the ASEAN Dhaka Committee.
He said Bangladesh is sheltering about a million Myanmar nationals who fled a military crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017. Then, Myanmar also agreed to take them back and provide security and create a conducive environment in Rakhine.
Momen said for the last four years, there is no violence in Rakhine, yet none of the Rohingyas returned to their homes, mostly because of fear of uncertainty and trust deficit.
"ASEAN should walk together to reduce their trust deficit and uncertainty and facilitate their safe repatriation.
"The prolonged presence of such a huge number of displaced people entails serious ramification on the economy, environment, security, and socio-political stability of not only Bangladesh but also the entire region, including the ASEAN."
Momen said Dhaka is keen to intensify political, trade, economic and cultural ties with the ASEAN countries, adding that having a strong tie with the ASEAN countries is by any standard a key foreign policy priority of Bangladesh.
He sought ASEAN countries' support on Bangladesh's application for the status of ASEAN Sectoral Partner.
"We wish to institutionalise our relations with ASEAN. This could be done initially through Sectoral Dialogue Partnership leading to full Dialogue Partnership in future," he said.
The foreign minister said with a large manufacturing base, Bangladesh stands to be one of ASEAN's strongest partners and an attractive destination for the ASEAN investors.
He suggested that Bangladesh and ASEAN countries can forge partnership in the areas of poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, climate change, water resources management, migration, disaster management, agriculture and ICT.
Bangladesh, which itself is one of the fastest growing economies, can be a huge market for the ASEAN countries. With its large manufacturing base, Bangladesh can also be a source of competitive imports for the ASEAN countries, he said.
"We are already one of the largest tourist-sending countries to Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia -- with improved air connectivity there is scope to enhance this manifold."
With its unique geographical location, Bangladesh can act as a "bridge" between South Asia and South East Asia acting as a gateway to the landlocked countries of Nepal, Bhutan and Northeast India for the ASEAN countries, he said.
Malaysian High Commissioner Haznah Md Hashim, current chair of ASEAN Dhaka Committee (ADC), highlighted the achievement of ASEAN in bringing peace and prosperity to the region and said ASEAN has been working together in finding a sustainable response to the current pandemic.
She said ADC will continue to play an active and constructive role as the bridge for the ASEAN member states in engaging the host government.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, Bruneian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Haji Haris Haji Othman, Indonesian Ambassador Rina P Soemarno, Myanmar Ambassador Aung Kyaw Moe, Vietnam Ambassador Pham Viet Chien, Thai Embassy Charge D'affaires Panom Thongprayoon, Philippines Embassy Chargé D'affaires Leo Marco C Vidal and Singapore Consulate's Head of Mission Sheela Pillai also addressed the event.