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Foreign minister: No hide-and-seek about Bhashan Char

  • Published at 07:28 pm January 20th, 2019
UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee and Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Dhaka on Sunday, January 20, 2019 PID

UN expert, Lee, discusses cooperation with Bangladesh to resolve Rohingya issue

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said the government will take all interested foreigners, including diplomats, to Bhashan Char Island in Noakhali to see the situation on the ground once the work is completed there.

Dr Momen said this to reporters at the Foreign Ministry yesterday, reports UNB

He said: "We are very open. We are not in any hide-and-seek. Let's finish the work first."

He said it is "not correct" that the government is not allowing visiting UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, to go to the island where the government plans to shift the Rohingyas.

The Foreign Minister said they conveyed to UN expert Lee that she will be visiting the island once the work is completed there.

Earlier, the UN Special Rapporteur met the foreign minister at his office and discussed issues related to the  Rohingya crisis.

Lee, who arrived in Dhaka on Saturday, will visit Cox's Bazar to see for herself the Rohingya situation there amid Myanmar's continued denial of access to Rakhine State.

Asked about Myanmar's denial of giving Lee access to Rakhine, the foreign minister said: “Though she is denied today, Myanmar may invite her tomorrow which is also possible in this world.”

Terming Lee a prominent person, Minister Dr Momen said her commitment to the Rohingya issue is very strong.

Dr Momen said: “The Rohingya issue is a big problem Bangladesh is facing now, and it needs an early solution.”

"It's good if we can resolve it quickly. But the delay might create uncertainty," he said, noting that delay sin resolving the problem might affect other countries in the region including Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar.

The foreign minister further said: “Bangladesh needs more from all countries and he sought similar support from Japan, too. "They've (Japan) much greater leverage in Myanmar."

Terming Myanmar a friend of Bangladesh, Minister Momen said: “This single (Rohingya) issue pushed Bangladesh into a problem where it is now hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas at the moment.”

"It's not the responsibility of Bangladesh alone to send them back and resolve their problems. It's the responsibility of all people and all countries of the world," said Minister Momen.

Dr Momen optimistic about repatriation

Asked whether he is frustrated due to delays in commencing repatriation, he said the process is slow but he never gets frustrated.

"I'm optimistic. I believe there is a solution to every crisis. You need to have patience. There're some tasks which are not like  just turning an electric switch on and off ," Dr Momen said, adding they are thinking afresh about how to find a solution.

After her meeting with minister Momen, the UN expert said she is going to Cox's Bazar on Monday.

Talking to reporters, she said it was a fruitful meeting and hoped her office will collaborate and work together with the office of the foreign minister of Bangladesh to help address the Rohingya crisis.

Lee, who earlier said incidents in Rakhine State bear the "hallmarks of genocide," and called for accountability in the strongest terms, also plans to visit the island of Bhashan Char in Noakhali. The Bangladesh government plans to shift the Rohingyas to the island.

The UN Special Rapporteur arrived here from Thailand where she has been since January 14.

Lee will present her findings and recommendations at the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2019.

Myanmar reluctant to let in UN Special Rapporteur

The Myanmar government has maintained its decision to cease cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and refused her entry into Myanmar.

"I still seek to engage with the Myanmar government and I remain committed to my mandate to monitor the situation of human rights in Myanmar. I'll continue to meet with people from Myanmar and speak out about human rights issues that occur around the country," said Lee in a statement announcing her Thailand and Bangladesh visits.

The Rohingyas in Cox's Bazar are the victims of human rights violations committed in the midst of the violence that erupted in August 2017, forcing over 800,000 Rohingyas to take shelter in Bangladesh.

These Rohingya people have been living in camps administered by UNHCR and the government of Bangladesh with support from a slew of UN agencies and international NGOs since August 2017.