The European Union on Sunday stressed the need for upholding rights to freedom of expression and freedom of protest in Bangladesh.
Representatives of embassies of European Union member countries in Dhaka said that upholding rights to freedom of expression
and protest ‘are essential elements’ for maintaining a democratic atmosphere in any country.
They said this at a diplomatic briefing on Rohingya issues and local situation, foreign ministry officials told New Age.
The diplomats also raised concerns over arrests of renowned photographer and activist Shahidul Alam and students during staging demands for better road safety as well as from their homes.
Police arrested Shahidul on August 5 after he criticised the government’s handling of student protests for safe roads.
Foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque also shared, in the meeting held at Foreign Service Academy in Dhaka, his observations based on a visit of a Bangladesh delegation to Rakhine State of Myanmar on August 11.
Haque told the diplomats that the Bangladesh delegation had seen trails of destruction with hundreds of houses in Muslim-majority villages burnt in Rakhine State but Buddhist houses and institutions intact.
Arson attacks in villages were so severe that leaves on top of tall palm and coconut trees also got burnt leaving scores of trunks to bear marks of destruction, he said, according to a diplomat.
Myanmar officials, however, claimed that the villages were burnt by ‘accidental fire’ by Rohingyas themselves, he said.
In Rakhine, they visited Pan Taw Pyin village from where most of its 15,000 inhabitants fled to Bangladesh. They also visited Kain Gyi village inhabited by ethnic Rakhine and Mro people and saw marks of devastation.
About 7,00,000 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 and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The ongoing Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.