The foreign minister says he fears pockets of radicalism might emerge if the refugee crisis persists
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Sunday said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has saved the face of the global leaders from "ignominy and disgrace" by sheltering the persecuted people of Rakhine province of Myanmar.
“If she had not given them shelter, it would have become the gravest and worst genocide of the century since WWII,” he said, urging the world leaders to show genuine commitment to human rights values by sending the Rohingyas back to their place of origin with safety and dignity.
Terming Bangladesh a big example of valuing human rights, he said allowing Rohingyas to go back to their place of origin in Myanmar with freedom of movement and other basic human rights would be the best way of showing respect to human rights.
The foreign minister was addressing the inaugural session of a seminar titled 'Bangladesh and Human Rights' at Inter-Continental Hotel in the city.
United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo, among others, spoke at the event. Members of the diplomatic corps and civil society were also present.
Foreign Minister Dr Momen said there are nearly 1.2 million Rohingyas or 'displaced residents' of Rakhine province being sheltered in Bangladesh now.
“They need to be repatriated with safety and security at the earliest. Their exodus was created by Myanmar and it is their responsibility to solve it,” he said.
The Rohingyas, Momen said, are a stateless people who had lived in Myanmar for centuries and Myanmar itself is failing to fulfill its obligations and responsibilities towards its own people.
"My fear is that, if this problem lingers for a longer time, it may encourage creating pockets of radicalism and that may create problems of uncertainty and instability not only for Myanmar and Bangladesh but for the entire region," he said.
Therefore the Rohingyas must go back to their homes at the earliest and the global leadership must come forward to resolve this crisis at its root, not in Bangladesh.
"Bangladesh seeks your proactive cooperation in resolving this matter of grave concern."
He reminded that unless Bangladesh stands like a solid rock to end atrocities and the worst form of human rights violation, termed by UN high commissioner of human rights as a 'classic example of ethnic cleansing' and by others as 'genocide' in Myanmar, their efforts will never be of much value.
He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina through sheltering these persecuted people had become a role model of humanity, and a leader of the world in protecting human rights and values.
"No wonder the UN members overwhelmingly voted Bangladesh again into its Human Rights Commission," he said.
Talking to reporters after the inaugural session, the foreign minister noted Bangladesh's achievement in the areas of core HR issues and said many people in Bangladesh have relatively poor conceptions about human rights, which needs to change.
On the issue of safe zones for Rohingyas, he said Bangladesh is proposing safe zones in Rakhine for Rohingyas, an idea originally floated by the prime minister.
He said though there is a trust deficit, Myanmar could agree on the proposal of creating safe zones if other countries ask it.
Momen said the safe zones for Rohingyas in Rakhine can be created under the supervision of India, China and Asean countries as Myanmar has confidence on these countries.
On Friday, Bangladesh and India agreed on the need to expedite "safe and sustainable" repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State of Myanmar.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj assured the Bangladesh foreign minister of India's continued support for safe, speedy and sustainable return of the displaced people to Myanmar.
She expressed appreciation for the humanitarian gesture of Bangladesh in supporting a large number of displaced people from the Rakhine region of Myanmar.
Culture of Peace
To enhance human rights, and to achieve sustainable peace and stability, the foreign minister said, Bangladesh proposes to promote a 'culture of peace', an action agenda that proposes to inculcate a mindset of tolerance, a mindset of respect for others irrespective of ethnicity, color, religion and background.
"If we can do that, we can surely help achieve sustainable peace, stability and human rights for all," he said.
Momen requested the members of civil society, national and international bureaucrats and professionals, academia, media and the scholars to discuss about the challenges that Bangladesh faces in promoting and protecting human rights with a special focus on promoting a 'culture of peace; and a 'culture of human rights' away from violence, hate mongering, and wars.
He said Bangladesh will take initiatives to develop national policies and strategies aiming at realization of the fundamental rights and principles as enshrined in the Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights instruments to which it is a Party.
"Democratic values and consciousness will be upheld, and the Constitution will be the highest document for running the government," Momen said.
He said Bangladesh takes pride in upholding its Constitution that guarantees equal rights and honor for all citizens including religious minorities, small ethnic communities and under-privileged people.