Bangladesh minister to hold talks in Myanmar on Rohingya crisis
WARY OF MOTIVES: Dhaka bans three charities from giving aid to refugees
DHAKA: Bangladesh’s home minister said on Thursday he will travel to Myanmar on October 23 for talks on the crisis that has seen more than half a million Rohingya refugees cross into his country in just six weeks.
Asaduzzaman Khan confirmed the dates of his visit as the United Nations said at least 14,000 new refugees had entered Bangladesh from Myanmar in the past two days after a brief lull in arrivals.
“We’ll ask them to take action so that no more people from this community from Myanmar enter Bangladesh,” said Khan of the crisis, which has strained ties between the two neighbours.
“We’ll also ask them to take back those who’ve already come in.”
Khan said the talks would also cover border security including along the Naf river, which acts as a frontier between Bangladesh and Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state.
Nearly a million Rohingya refugees are now crowded into packed refugee camps near the border where most live in desperate conditions with limited access to food, clean water or proper sanitation.
Bangladesh said earlier this month that a senior Myanmar minister had agreed during a visit to Dhaka to set up a working group to discuss taking back the Rohingya.
But no details were given, and experts have questioned the likelihood of the refugees being able to return to Myanmar any time soon.
The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution in Myanmar, which regards them as illegal immigrants.
In recent weeks large numbers of Rohingya villages have been burned to the ground in what the UN says is a systematic attempt by the military to drive them out.
The UN says 536,000 have fled since Rohingya militant attacks on police posts on August 25 triggered military reprisals, joining hundreds of thousands already there.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been severely criticised for her failure to curb the military crackdown, said last month that her country would take back “verified” refugees.
This would be done according to criteria agreed in 1993, when tens of thousands of Rohingya were repatriated, she said.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has banned three charities from working with Rohingya refugees, amid concerns displaced in camps along its border could be radicalised.
Mahjabeen Khaled, an MP from the ruling Awami League, said two international charities and one Bangladesh-based foundation, had been blacklisted from the Rohingya refugee camps in southernmost Cox’s Bazar district.
Khaled, who sits on the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs, said no specific allegations had been levelled at the charities.
But authorities were “scrutinising and screening” all aid agencies wanting to contribute to the massive relief effort in Cox’s Bazar, where more than half a million refugees had fled to squalid camps since August.
“We want to monitor who is giving aid, and why, for security reasons. Who are funding them, and what they are going to do with the money?” Khaled said.
“They (Rohingya) are vulnerable. A lot can be done with this Rohingya people. We want to be careful,” she said, adding it would be “easy” to lure the refugees to militancy.
People watch as Hoa Binh hydroelectric power plant opens the flood gates after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression.
A Rohingya refugee woman looks out of her tent in the Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.