Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to demonstrate unity over the plight of Myanmar’s ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims, expressing Dhaka’s readiness to join any initiative to be taken by the forum.
“Show your unity … to solve the crisis,” the premier told OIC Contact Group Meeting on Rohingya on the sidelines of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.
Sheikh Hasina also sought “urgent humanitarian assistance from the Muslim brotherly countries” to help Bangladesh manage the large influx of Rohingya fleeing their homeland in the face of “ethnic cleansing”.
The premier informed the OIC leaders that since 25th August last, over 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh over land and rivers, 60 percent of whom are children.
“It is an unbearable human catastrophe. I myself have visited them and listened to the stories of their grave sufferings, particularly of women and children,” Sheikh Hasina said. “I would like you all to come to Bangladesh and hear from them about the atrocities in Myanmar.”
The Bangladesh premier called for an immediate halt to all forms of atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims.
“Myanmar is spearheading a state-sponsored propaganda to dub the Rohingya as ‘Bengalis’. This must be stopped and the country must acknowledge them as their nationals,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said all forcibly displaced Rohingya must also be allowed to return to their homeland in Myanmar “with complete safety, security and dignity”.
She proposed the creation of ‘safe zones’ inside Myanmar to protect the innocent civilians, especially women, children and elderly persons, and called for the implementation of Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations “immediately, unconditionally and entirely”.
The premier said that until the arrival of the latest surges of refugees, Bangladesh had already hosted for three decades another 400,000 of them.
“So altogether we are hosting about 800,000 Rohingya in Bangladesh, despite space and resource constraints (and) Bangladesh is providing the stricken people with shelter, food and other emergency services,” she said.
The prime minister refuted Myanmar’s claims that Rohingya were “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”, saying all historical records suggested that this community had been living in Rakhine State of Myanmar for centuries.
“Myanmar is forcibly expelling the Rohingya Muslims from their ancestral homes under a planned, organised and systematic process. In the recent past they were first excluded from the list of recognised ethnic groups of the country,” she said.
In 1982, she said, Rohingya were stripped off their citizenship and later they were sent to internally displaced persons’ (IDP) camps in their own country.
The Bangladesh premier said the Myanmar government had not been responding to the diplomatic efforts of her government to return all the Rohingya to their homeland. “Rather, Myanmar is laying landmines along border to stop return of Rohingya to their homeland,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh wants to see the end of the ‘ethnic cleansing’. “The plights of our Muslim brothers and sisters need to stop... the crisis has its root in Myanmar and its solution has to be found in Myanmar,” Sheikh Hasina said.
OIC Secretary General Dr Yousef Al Othaimeen also spoke on the occasion on Tuesday.