Sheikh Hasina tells Al Jazeera: Ukraine issue has made Rohingya crisis more difficult


During her just concluded Qatar visit, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave an exclusive interview to Qatar-based international media outlet Al Jazeera English service. During this interview, where a number of issues including the situation in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and the future of the Rohingyas living there came up.

Bangladesh Prime Minister went to participate in the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5) in Doha.

Sheikh Hasina said the war in Ukraine and its refugees have attracted the global attention shifting the focus from the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh which makes the situation more difficult.

“The war (in Ukraine) has made the situation more difficult. The whole focus is now on the war and the refugees from the Ukraine”, she said.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister in her interview to Al Jazeera said that Myanmar is not positive in bringing their nationals back to their country despite Dhaka has been engaging in talks to resolve the issue.

Al Jazeera English service journalist Nick Clarke interviewed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and a short part of the interview has already been broadcast while the full part to be broadcast on Al Jazeera at 4:30 GMT on March 11.

Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh gave shelter to Rohingyas – victims of persecution, murder and rape in Myanmar – on humanitarian grounds.

Replying to a question about a recent fire in a Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar and the improvement in the situation of Rohingyas, the prime minister said:

“When the Rohingya persecution started in Myanmar, Rohingyas were subjected to torture, murder and rape… we felt sorry for the Rohingyas… after that we opened the border… we let them come. Besides, we provide shelter and treatment for all of them from the humanitarian side”.

She continued: “Side by side, we started talking to Myanmar also. We tell them, you should take them (Rohingyas) back. Unfortunately, they are not responding positively. These people should go back to their own land”.

The Prime Minister said: “The international community is exerting pressure on Myanmar. But it is really difficult. We arranged accommodation for them in a separate place. Bhasan Char is a good place, a good place to live… We have arranged good accommodation and excellent facilities for children there”.

On living conditions in the Rohingya camps and the loss of shelter of more than 12,000 Rohingyas in the fire, she said, “Actually the situation in the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar is not very good.  They (Rohingyas) are fighting each other. They engaged in different types of activities that include drugs, arms and human trafficking. They have conflicts among themselves”.

It may be mentioned here that back in 2017, when Rohingyas were forced to flee Myanmar amid genocide, Sheikh Hasina did not hesitate in opening Bangladesh’s border with Myanmar thus enabling over 1.20 million Rohingyas to take temporary shelter in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been making frantic efforts in compelling Myanmar in taking-back this huge size of Rohingyas. For a developing country like Bangladesh hosting over 1.20 Rohingyas for years is surely an extremely challenging task especially when the Western countries including the United Nations have significantly reduced aid which is essentially needed to provide food and other basics to over 1.20 million Rohingyas.

Why Myanmar authorities drove-away Rohingyas?

According to media reports, Myanmar military junta is planning to transform Rakhine State (formerly known as Arakan State), a historic coastal region in Southeast Asia, into “another Singapore”, which would ultimately emerge into an important business hub in the region. This is the main reason why Myanmar military junta had driven-away Rohingyas from the Rakhine State. Moreover, there is a common perception within Myanmar’s populace that Rohingyas by nature are inclined towards violating laws and indulge into criminal and terrorist activities.

Following the 2017 genocide on Rohingyas, Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi had openly defended country’s military junta and supported Myanmar’s extreme cruelties on Rohingyas. She even went further by saying Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority did not amount to ethnic cleansing.

For such notoriety of Aung San Suu Kyi, she was also branded by international media as a pariah.

Rakhine State, with 36,762 square kilometers land area borders faced the Bay of Bengal to the west, the Indian subcontinent to its north. The Arakan Mountains isolated the region and made it accessible only by the Indian subcontinent and the sea. It became one of the earliest regions in Southeast Asia to embrace Dharmic religions, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism. Islam arrived with Arab merchants in the 8th century. The Kingdom of Mrauk U emerged as an independent Arakanese kingdom for 300 years. During the Age of Discovery and Bengal Subah’s major economic development, Arakan caught the interest of the Dutch East India Company and the Portuguese Empire. In the middle of the 17th century, it was dominated by the Islamic Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Arakan steadily declined from the 18th century onwards after its loss to the Mughal Empire.

In my opinion, Bangladesh needs effective support from international community in resolving the Rohingya issue and force Myanmar in taking-back over 1.20 million Rohingyas from Bangladesh immediately.


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