The Bangladesh government and the international community are preparing to put further pressure on Myanmar authorities next week for ensuring return of Rohingyas as influx of the ethnic minority people into Bangladesh continued amid unrelenting violence in Rakhine State.
Several thousand Rohingyas are waiting for boat at bordering areas as criminals backed by Myanmar security forces continue setting fire to scores of houses every night at villages in Rakhine State, officials said.
Several influential countries and the European Union are likely to use a grand meeting of the top diplomats of Asia and Europe, set for November 20-21 in Myanmar, to mount pressure on Myanmar authorities for ending violence in Rakhine and starting to rehabilitate Rohingyas to their homes in the state, diplomats said.
Several countries communicated with Bangladesh authorities through diplomatic channels that their delegations would raise Rohingya issues in the Asia-Europe Meetings.
Foreign ministers Sigmar Gabriel of Germany, Taro Kono of Japan, Margot Wallström of Sweden and European Commission vice-president Federica Mogherini are scheduled for November 19 to visit Dhaka and Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar on their way to Myanmar for the meeting.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi is also scheduled for November 18 to visit Dhaka for holding discussions mainly on Rohingya issues with Bangladesh leaders, officials said.
Over 6,18,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing, between August 25 and November 13.
The ongoing influx took the total number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to over 10,37,000 till Sunday, according to estimates of UN agencies.
Myanmar’s army on Monday denied that there were abuses against Rohingya civilians, following an internal probe that a rights group said aimed to ‘whitewash’ an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Muslim minority, according to Agence France-Presse.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed the probe as an attempt to ‘whitewash crimes against humanity.’
‘There is overwhelming evidence that the military has murdered and raped Rohingyas and burned their villages to the ground,’ said Amnesty International’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific James Gomez.
The findings were released ahead of Wednesday’s visit by US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, expected to adopt a firm tone with the military over its treatment of Rohingyas.
Myanmar army gave no reason as it transferred Major General Maung Maung Soe on Monday from his role as head of western commands which controls operations in Rakhine State.
‘He wasn’t moved into any position at present, he has been put in reserve,’ Myanmar Army spokesperson Major General Aye Lwin said, according to Sky News.
Myanmar Army took the move after five days of killing of two of its officers and nine soldiers in an ambush allegedly by the Arakan Army, an armed group.
Retired Myanmar Army Lt-Gen Thaung Aye, a Lower House lawmaker, confirmed the causalities of nine soldiers and injury of 14 soldiers during a clash with the Arakan Army in the western township of Paletwa in Chin State, according to The Irrawaddy.
Thaung Aye explained that the troops were ambushed while travelling by boats along the Kaladan River, which runs through Chin and Rakhine states from east India.
An university student was killed and four women were injured in the attack, as they were also on board the military boat, according to local sources.
Bangladesh and Myanmar officials were working for a foreign minister-level meeting next week for negotiation and finalisation of a bilateral ‘arrangement’ on repatriation of Rohingyas who crossed into Bangladesh following persecution in their homeland.
Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali, who would also join ministerial-level Asia-Europe Meeting in November 20-21, would also hold a bilateral visit in Myanmar in November 22-23. He is expected to hold a meeting with Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi during the visit.
ASEM currently has 53 partners, including 51 countries and two regional organisations –– the European Union and the ASEAN. Australia, Bangladesh, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are, among other countries, members of ASEM which usually keeps political, economic, social and cultural affairs in agendas of its meeting.
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