The United States has said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) nations can play an important role in resolving the Rohingya crisis.
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Simon Henshaw made the statement while talking to the reporters during a teleconference with South Asian media this week.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to travel to Myanmar on Wednesday to meet State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as army chief General Min Aung Hlaing.
Henshaw recently lead a delegation to Myanmar and Bangladesh to discuss ways to address the humanitarian and human rights concerns stemming from the Rakhine state crisis and improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance to displaced persons in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the region.
The top American diplomat said regional countries, in particular Asean nations, have an important role to play in addressing the Rohingya issue.
“I think that it is important regional countries support the process and speak with both countries and help them help in this process to move forward towards repatriation,” he said.
Henshaw said: “I also think that they [Asean members] are; and they can continue with their efforts to help provide assistance to refugees inside Bangladesh.”
Praising the efforts of Bangladesh government, he said: “On the actions of the Bangladeshi government, we much appreciate them and praise the effort they've made to deal with this huge number of people coming into their country.”
“I spoke with a number official from different ministries when I went there. The delegation was much appreciative of the effort they're making to support the large number of refugees,” he said.
In Myanmar, the delegation met with government officials, Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine community leaders, including the internally displaced people living in a camp.
He also urged the Myanmar government to act to restore the rule of law, protect the locals and investigate the alleged human rights abuse and violation in the country.
Welcoming the repatriation plan, he encouraged both Bangladesh and Myanmar to implement a peace plan soon as possible.
He also emphasized on the importance of creating safe conditions for the Rohingyas so that the refugees voluntarily return to their villages.
Talking about Bangladesh visit, he said: “It is so shocking. The scale of the refugee crisis is immense.
“People were suffering. Many refugees told how they saw their villages being burned and their relatives being killed in front of them. Some of them recalled being shot while fleeing.”
He added: “Despite this trauma many expressed a strong desire to return to their homes in Myanmar provided that their safety, security and rights were guaranteed.”
Henshaw said: “US remains committed to addressing the needs of those impacted by the crisis and calls others, including those in the region to join us in our response.”
Replying to a query, he said: “The Myanmar military is certainly responsible for the security operations and the security as a whole inside Rakhine state.
“We call upon them to take steps to restore security and stability and to investigate reports of atrocities particularly by the security forces.”
Stating that they are in talks with the civilian government in Myanmar, he said: “It's tricky and in Myanmar, there is a transition towards democracy there.
“We support the transition process and we will speak to both the civilian officials and military officials regarding it.”
However, the US official refused to comment on the relationship between the two neighbouring countries.
“I am not going to comment on the relations between the two countries other than to say that we support their talks and they've already held and furthered talks on solving the Rohingya issue,” he said.
He added: “We believe these talks should lead to a voluntary return of Rohingya people back to Rakhine state.”
According to Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, at least 625,000 Rohingya refugees entered Bangladesh fleeing the violence which erupted in Myanmar on August 25.
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