Politics

Bangladesh calls on Southeast Asia to pressure Myanmar to take back the Rohingya refugees

Key Points
  • Bangladesh hopes the Association of South East Asians (ASEAN) will put pressure on Myanmar in the repatriation of the displaced Rohingya to go back to their home country, according to the foreign minister.  
  • AK Abdul Momen told CNBC's "Streets Signs Asia" on Monday Bangladesh has been bearing the burden the Rohingya Muslims, who have been seeking shelter in the South Asian country, after fleeing from the Myanmar army's genocidal operations in 2017.
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Bangladesh hopes ASEAN will pressure Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh hopes that Southeast Asian nations will put pressure on Myanmar to repatriate displaced Rohingya and bring them home, according to the foreign minister.  

AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh has been bearing the burden of the Rohingya Muslims, who have been seeking shelter in the South Asian country after a mass exodus due to a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar army in 2017.

The Rohingya are a persecuted Muslim minority from Rakhine state in western Myanmar. While there have been large migrations of Rohingya to Bangladesh since the 1970s, none was as quick and massive as the August 2017 exodus.

"Around 1.1 million persecuted Rohingyas are now being sheltered in Bangladesh," Momen told CNBC's "Streets Signs Asia" on Monday. "Our priority is that these Rohingya persecuted people should go back to their home for a decent living," he said.

Rohingya are seen after arriving on a boat to Bangladesh on September 14, 2017 in Shah Porir Dip, Bangladesh. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 during the outbreak of violence in the Rakhine state.
Allison Joyce | Getty Images

Bangladesh took in the Rohingya out of humanitarian consideration, but the South Asian nation is now "facing difficulty with them," said Momen. He hopes that the member states of ASEAN — or the Association of South East Asian Nations — will play a strong role in the upcoming summit in getting Myanmar's military government to take back the refugees.

"Now that the Myanmar government has been invited by ASEAN (to) the summit in Indonesia, this is good news. At least they will go there and then maybe they will be pressurized by ASEAN, hopefully, to take their people back," Momen said.

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The Rohingya are 'an unwanted people,' says Human Rights Watch

Myanmar is currently in a state of emergency, after a military coup on Feb. 1, which saw the powerful junta oust the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Momen's comments come as Myanmar's military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing is reportedly going to attend the ASEAN summit in Indonesia on April 24. The 10-member regional bloc has been trying to find a way to defuse the escalating crisis in Myanmar, which has so far killed 700 civilians and detained more than 3,000, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Observers have warned that Myanmar may be on the brink of becoming a "failed state" and there needs to be greater international effort from the world's major powers to resolve the violence.

While Bangladesh's foreign minister did not take a stance on the latest military coup, he emphasized that his government wants stability to return to Myanmar.

"Bangladesh believes in democracy. And we want the legal system to hold," Momen said, adding that his country does not support violence as it only  leads to "more violence and uncertainty."