Desk report, September 20: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to demonstrate unity over the plight of Myanmar’s ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims expressing Dhaka’s readiness to join any initiative to be taken by the forum.
Sheikh Hasina also sought “urgent humanitarian assistance” from the Muslim brotherly countries for Bangladesh for handling the influx of Rohingyas Muslims fleeing their home in the face of “ethnic cleansing”.
She said the Muslim brothers and sisters in Myanmar’s Rakhin State were exposed to ethnic cleansing in the face of an ongoing military operation, causing the “largest exodus of Rohingyas of all times”.
The premier informed the OIC leaders that since 25th August last, over 400,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh crossing land and river, 60 percent of them being children.
“It is an unbearable human catastrophe. I myself have visited them and listened to the stories of their grave sufferings, particularly of women and children. I would like you all to come to Bangladesh and hear from them about the atrocities in Myanmar,” she said.
She said Myanmar was spearheading a state-sponsored propaganda to dub Rohingyas as ‘Bengalis’ which must be stopped and the country must acknowledge them as their nationals.
But, she said, Bangladesh would require humanitarian assistance from the brotherly Muslim countries until their return home.
OIC Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen also spoke on the occasion, among others, when the Bangladesh premier said “all forms of atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims must be stopped immediately”.
Sheikh Hasina said all forcibly displaced Rohingyas must also be allowed to return to their homeland in Myanmar with complete safety, security and dignity.
She proposed creation of ‘safe zones’ inside Myanmar to protect the innocent civilians, especially women, children and elderly persons and called for implementation of Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations “immediately, unconditionally and entirely”.
The premier said until the arrival of the latest surges of refugees, Bangladesh hosted for three decades another 400,000 of them.
“So altogether we are hosting about eight hundred thousands of Rohingyas in Bangladesh, despite space and resource constraints . . . Bangladesh is providing the stricken people with shelter, food and other emergency services, she said.
The prime minister refuted Myanmar’s claims that Rohingyas were “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” saying all historical records suggested that this community had been living in Rakhine State of Myanmar for centuries.
Sheikh Hasina said Myanmar was forcibly expelling the Rohingya Muslims from their ancestral homes under a planned, organized and systematic process and in the recent past they were first excluded from the list of recognized ethnic groups of the country.
In 1982, she said, Rohingyas were stripped off their citizenship and later they were sent to internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps in their own country.
The Bangladesh premier said her government was making continued diplomatic efforts to return all the Rohingyas to their homeland.
“But the Myanmar government is not responding to the calls. Rather, Myanmar is laying landmines along border to stop return of Rohingyas to their homeland,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh wants to see the end of the ‘ethnic cleansing’. “The plights of our Muslim brothers and sisters need to stop . . . the crisis has its root in Myanmar and its solution has to be found in Myanmar,” Sheikh Hasina said.