'We want peace, we want good relations with our neighbouring countries, but we cannot tolerate and accept any injustice'
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is hosting Rohingya refugees on humanitarian grounds, but the Myanmar government must put an end to the ongoing persecution against the Rohingya and let them return to their homeland – the Rakhine state in Myanmar.
The prime minister reached the Kutupalong registered refugee camp in Ukhiya upazila, Cox’s Bazar around 11:30am on Tuesday, where she witnessed first-hand the conditions of the Rohingya refugees who fled Rakhine to escape military crackdown and sought refuge in Bangladesh, our correspondent reported.
Speaking to reporters at Kutupalong, Hasina said: “We gave them [the Rohingya refugees] shelter in our country on humanitarian grounds. Our houses were also burnt down in 1971. Our people fled to India when they had nowhere to go. So, we are doing everything in our power to help the Rohingya.
“The refugees are being provided with food and shelter. We will fulfil our responsibilities as a neighbour.”
However, she also urged the international community to exert pressure on Myanmar to repatriate the Rohingya.
She said Rohingya refugees were Myanmar nationals and it must take its citizens back.
“We want peace, we want good relations with our neighbouring countries, but we cannot tolerate and accept any injustice,” UNB quoted her as saying.
The prime minister also denounced the terror attack on the Myanmar border police and military base, adding that her government would never allow any insurgent to use Bangladesh against its neighbours. “I ask the Myanmar government to find out the real culprits and as the neighbouring country, we will help them in this connection.”
The air became heavy at Kutupalong when the prime minister spoke with the refugees, especially with children.
The Myanmar refugees burst into tears while narrating their sufferings to the prime minister and how they were tortured by the Myanmar security forces, reported Bangla Tribune.
For a few moments, the prime minister could not hold on to her composure and became emotional as well when she listened to the refugees.
Later, the prime minister made it clear that Bangladesh would not tolerate atrocities committed against innocent people.
“What is the crime of the children and women, the innocent people? They are not responsible [for the insurgent attacks] … The Myanmar government should have handled this situation [the attacks by insurgents] patiently. They should not have allowed the army or their law enforcement agencies to attack the common people,” she told the BBC in an interview.
“In our parliament, we have taken a resolution that Myanmar should take all their citizens back … they should create a congenial atmosphere so that they [the Rohingya] can go back, and we urge the UN and the international organisations to put pressure on Myanmar so they act accordingly.”
She also told the BBC that Bangladesh would support the Rohingya until they were repatriated to Myanmar.
The prime minister distributed relief items among the refugees in Kutupalong.
She was accompanied by her sister Sheikh Rehana, Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury, Housing and Public Works Minister Engr Mosharraf Hossain, State Minister for Land Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and Bangladesh Army chief Lt Gen ABM Shafiul Huq, among others.
According to UN estimates, as of yesterday, around 370,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh since Myanmar security forces relaunched their crackdown in the Rakhine state following insurgent attacks on Myanmar police outposts and an army base on August 25.