Malaysia to Host OIC Meeting on Rohingya Crisis

BenarNews staff
170111-MY-Rohingya-1000.jpg A Rohingya Muslim refugee family looks on during a gathering in Kuala Lumpur against the alleged persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, Dec. 4, 2016.

Malaysia next week will host a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization of Islamic States to discuss a humanitarian crisis surrounding Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, the OIC said in a news release.

An extraordinary meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers focusing on the Rohingya issue will take place in Kuala Lumpur on Jan. 19, according to the Islamic world’s largest inter-governmental body.

Elsewhere on the diplomatic front, Myanmar Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kyaw Tin met with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other officials in Dhaka on Wednesday to discuss the Rohingya situation, at the start of a three-day visit to Bangladesh.

Since early October, southeastern Bangladesh has seen an influx of 65,000 Rohingya fleeing violence amid a military crackdown in the neighboring Myanmar state of Rakhine, according to the United Nations.

The meeting of 56 OIC member-state representatives in Kuala Lumpur will be led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, Agence France-Presse quoted a Malaysian official.

The leader of predominantly Muslim Malaysia in recent weeks raised tensions with Buddhist majority Myanmar by describing a military crackdown in Rakhine state – which is home to the stateless Rohingya population – as a “genocide.”

The upcoming meeting in Kuala Lumpur follows emergency meetings of OIC groups in Geneva and Brussels in late December, according to the OIC release. Participants discussed the Rohingya crisis amid reports that members of the minority had been killed and their homes torched during a military crackdown that followed the killing of a group of Burmese border guards in Maungdaw township in early October.

Some people from the stateless minority group have accused Myanmar security forces of arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and arson during the security operation, though both the government and army have denied the charges.

“The meetings sought to identify possible actions that may be taken in the lead-up to the forthcoming Extraordinary Meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers to be convened on Jan. 19 in Kuala Lumpur on the Rohingya issue,” the OIC release said about last month’s discussions in Switzerland and Belgium.

“The groups called for concrete actions to address the basic human rights and humanitarian issues of this long suffering minority and called upon the government to ensure that the displaced Rohingya population are allowed to return to their homes in safety and dignity,” the release added.

Take them back

In Dhaka, a spokesman for Hasina said the special envoy of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi handed the prime minister a letter and told Hasina that “Myanmar wants to deepen ties and cooperation with Bangladesh.”

But the PM “renewed her call” that Myanmar “take back all of its nationals from Bangladesh,” said Ihsanul Karim, the PM’s press secretary, referring to her government’s call in late December that Naypyidaw repatriate “the entire” population of 300,000 to 500,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled to Bangladesh over the years.

On Dec. 30, a day after Dhaka made that call, Myanmar’s government said it would take back only 2,415 Rohingya living in Bangladesh, Reuters reported.

“During the meeting, the Honorable Prime Minister said the two countries could permanently resolve the refugee problems through discussion,” Karim told BenarNews on Wednesday.

Karim said the prime minister also reassured the Burmese envoy that her government would maintain a policy of “zero tolerance against terrorism” by not allowing armed groups to use Bangladeshi territory as a haven for launching attacks on the country’s neighbors, including Myanmar.

‘Myanmar must accept the history’

The three-member delegation headed by Kyaw Tin arrived in Dhaka on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the team met for two hours with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali at the government’s Guest House in the capital.

The team met with Hasina on Wednesday evening. Neither Kyaw Tin nor any members of his team spoke to reporters after the meetings. The Myanmar embassy in Dhaka declined to comment.

The delegation is to return to Myanmar on Friday.

Retired Bangladeshi diplomat Ashfaqur Rahman, an expert on Southeast Asian affairs, described the visit by the Myanmar delegation as a positive development in bilateral relations.

“Myanmar’s desire to cooperate with Bangladesh to deepen ties gives a hint that Suu Kyi’s government wants to resolve the long-standing Rohingya problem. Rohingya infiltration is the main obstacle in the relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar,” he told BenarNews.

But, he added: “Myanmar must accept the history and take back its Rohingya nationals living in Bangladesh. They cannot shrug off that the Rohingyas are the illegal migrants from [Myanmar]. A highly populated country like Bangladesh can no longer take hundreds of thousands of Myanmar nationals.”

Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report.


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