Food minister avoids embassy alert on Myanmar visit

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:05, Sep 14,2017

 
 

Food minister Qamrul Islam visited Myanmar in the past week avoiding an alert issued by the Bangladesh embassy in Yangon to refrain from high level engagements with the country.
After Myanmar military started to deploy more troops in Rakhine state in the second week of August, Bangladesh embassy in Yangon sent a letter to the foreign ministry in the third week of August suggesting that any high level engagement with the country should be avoided as any military crackdown might cause adverse impacts on Bangladesh, officials said.
The foreign ministry communicated the suggestion to the food minister after the Myanmar military launched crackdown in Rakhine state on August 25, eventually causing an influx of ethnic minority Rohingyas into Bangladesh, the officials said.
Qamrul, however, went to Yangon on September 6 on an official visit and signed a memorandum of understanding to import rice from Myanmar.
Asked about the reasons of the alert sent by the embassy, a senior official said that the embassy was of the understanding that sending high level delegation and engaging at high levels might provide grounds for Myanmar to campaign that it was maintaining good relations with Bangladesh.
Some 3,79,000 ethnic minority Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh till Wednesday fleeing violence and ethnic cleansing, according to UN estimates, as Myanmar military and religious bigots launched ‘security operations’ with killing and burning villages and houses on August 25, raising total number of undocumented Myanmar nationals living in Bangladesh to 8,00,000.
Diplomats in Dhaka believed that the food minister’s visit could have be cancelled on any pretext as avoiding a visit was not unusual during tensed situation.
Bangladesh Enterprise Institute vice-president Humayun Kabir said that the timing of the food minister’s visit was not appropriate as it might send a wrong message to international quarters.
A senior serving diplomat said that when the country was in a humanitarian crisis purely because of Myanmar’s total disregard for any diplomatic relations with Bangladesh and their belligerent attitude of planting land mines, ‘why we are at the same time signing a memo to import rice from them?.’
Bangladesh could have bought rice from any other ASEAN country including Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam as there were agreements with these countries to import rice, if necessary, officials said.
Food minister Qamrul Islam on Sunday told parliament that he went to Myanmar as the prime minister said that ‘trade’ and ‘diplomatic efforts’ would continue with the country. 

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