Rohingya refugee crisis: Dhaka stepping up diplomatic push
12:00 AM, September 08, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:40 PM, September 13, 2017

Dhaka for int'l safe zone in Myanmar

Steps up diplomatic efforts

Bangladesh has taken a diplomatic initiative to have an area in Myanmar declared as an “international safe zone” under UN supervision to ensure safety, security, food and shelter for the homeless and repressed Rohingyas as well as to stop their influx towards Bangladesh.

Diplomatic sources said Bangladesh has requested the UN, Germany, India and International Committee of the Red Cross to take the initiative to set up the safe zone like those established previously in different countries across the world.

Dhaka has also initiated diplomatic efforts to ensure UN Security Council censure over the recent violence in Rakhine that has killed several thousand Rohingyas and triggered an exodus of over 1,64,000 Myanmar nationals to Bangladesh in last two weeks.

The Bangladesh government stepped up contacts with UN Security Council members, including Russia and China, major organisations like the European Union, OIC, ASEAN, neighbouring India and important countries like Russia and Germany to mount pressure on Myanmar to end the persecution of Rohingyas, a top government official told The Daily Star.

He said the foreign ministry through the Bangladesh missions abroad circulated briefing notes, documents and evidence of atrocities in Myanmar among the UN nations, UN secretary general, UN Human Rights Commission and other regional and international bodies so that heads of state and government in their speeches in the upcoming UN General Assembly sessions strongly raise the Rohingya and Myanmar issues.

“We are also expecting that a motion for condemning Myanmar's actions will be raised in the upcoming UN General Assembly meeting,” he said, adding that Bangladesh was looking for a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis despite provocations from Myanmar.

Bangladesh, with support from Saudi Arabia, has taken another initiative to take a resolution on the Rohingya issue to the 3rd committee (human rights affairs) of the UNGA.

As part of its diplomatic efforts, Dhaka already had talks with China and India, which maintain “very close” relations with Myanmar, over cooperation for resolving the crisis peacefully.

“We have requested China not to block any UN move on the Rohingya crisis. We are now witnessing a softened stance by China,” said a highly placed source, adding that the government was also having discussions with Russia frequently.

According to diplomatic sources, Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque on Tuesday called Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Ma Mingqiang to his office. The two discussed wide range of issues on the Rohingya situation.

Shahidul sought Chinese support to use its good office to influence Myanmar to end cruelty against Rohingyas and maintain neutrality at the United Nations.

During the meeting, China was reminded of its good relations with Bangladesh. The foreign secretary expected that Beijing would look into Bangladesh's problems and stand up for its causes at the UN.

Though there was no instant response from China, diplomatic sources said the country didn't raise any objection to discussing the Rohingya issue at the UN Security Council on August 30.

Asked whether China would mediate negotiations between Bangladesh and Myanmar, a diplomat at the Chinese embassy in Dhaka said they would not make any comment on the issue at this moment.

Chinese Special Envoy Sun Guoxiang during her visit to Dhaka in April had offered Bangladesh to help ease the diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis, but no such move was made till now.

Talking to The Daily Star, a diplomatic source in New Delhi said the Bangladesh foreign secretary had a conversation with Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Myanmar this week.

Jaishankar informed Shahidul Haque that he would convey Bangladesh's message to the PM who was fully aware of the Rohingya situation.

Referring to EU Parliament's recent resolution and statements on the Rohingya issue and recent visits by the UN Human Rights Commission and EU fact-finding missions to Rohingyas camps and undocumented Myanmar nationals, foreign ministry officials said the international community was fully aware of the Rohingya situation as Dhaka had launched all-out diplomatic efforts about two years ago.

Citing another example of diplomatic efforts, a senior diplomat at the Bangladesh mission in New York said the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a rare letter to the UN Security Council on Tuesday expressed concern that the violence in Rakhine could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

He warned that there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar which could destabilise the region.

“We are in close contact with the UN secretary-general and the UN Security Council. We are getting very positive responses from all and expecting to mount pressure on Myanmar towards a lasting solution to the Rohingya issue, putting an immediate halt to violence in Rakhine and taking back all Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh,” added the diplomat.

About the multi-dimensional diplomatic efforts, a diplomatic source told this correspondent that the foreign ministry was currently playing four specific diplomatic cards. They are: direct contact with Myanmar and continuing talks to resolve the issue bilaterally; diplomatic initiatives with important Asian countries like India and China to get their support and cooperation; making multilateral diplomatic efforts with UN, EU, OIC and ASEAN; and Effective steps to regularly feed the international media with correct information on incidents.

Foreign ministry sources said Bangladesh previously barred international media and some other foreign organisations from visiting Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar, but now it has withdrawn the restriction and allowing media and others to be there.

Dhaka has welcomed another EU fact-finding mission which is expected to visit Cox's Bazar soon.

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