Myanmar is under increased global pressure to solve the Rohingya crisis as next-door neighbour Bangladesh has taken a tough stance on the issue highlighting the plight of the persecuted minority community in various global forums.
“Bangladesh has provided data and information to various organisations and countries including the UN, the EU, Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and the US, and encouraged them to talk about it,” a Foreign Ministry official told the Bangla Tribune.
“We also highlighted the issue in various bilateral meetings,” the official said, seeking anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced a volley of questions about the initiatives she has taken to solve the problem during her recent Brussels visit. She also had to give explanations to foreign ministers of the ASEAN countries.
“Bangladesh has been trying to reach a peaceful solution to the problem since the 1980s but Myanmar was never cordial,” the senior Foreign Ministry official said. “This [reluctance] has forced us to take a tough stance. We are trying to highlight Myanmar's real intentions.”
About a million Rohingya Muslims live in apartheid-like conditions in squalid camps in northwestern Rakhine state, where they are denied citizenship and basic rights. Many in the Buddhist-majority country regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented Rohingyas are believed to be living in Bangladesh, outside the two designated refugee camps. As many as 75,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh to escape persecution in Myanmar after its military launched a crackdown in October last year.
Asked if Bangladesh's current approach would help solve the problem, the Foreign Ministry official said it was not possible to reach a solution overnight.
According to the official, Myanmar's economy will feel the brunt if the situation persists, as negative discussions on rights conditions would drive away businesses, who expressed interest to invest after sanctions on Myanmar were lifted.
Where Bangladesh stands
Myanmar did not respond to Bangladesh's call for talks over the Rohingya issue after Naypyidaw started the crackdown.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali spoke with foreign diplomats about the issue, and later Dhaka welcomed a UN delegation to visit Cox's Bazar Rohingya refugee camps.
In December, Bangladesh organised a global meeting on migration and used the platform to discuss the issue with several countries.
After this initiative, Myanmar agreed to sit for talks in January where Bangladesh conveyed a strong message to Naypyidaw's special envoy to solve the issue, another Foreign Ministry official said.
“Dhaka later discussed the matter in details with Indonesia's foreign minister, the three members of Kofi Annan-led international commission, the members of Myanmar government's Rakhine Commission, UN's special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, Chinese foreign ministry's special envoy and the ambassadors of various countries to Bangladesh,” the official added.