By Nazrul Islam;
Dhaka – Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in squalid camps have sought United Nations protection as a delegation from the UN Security Council visited them in the south-eastern Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar.
The refugees, driven away by Myanmar military their homes in northern Rakhine, gathered on waysides as the delegation entered the camp in Kutupalong on Sunday holding placards.
“We demand justice” and “Stop Genocide” are some of the slogans that put on display to draw attention of the diplomats from the 15-state council.
A 24-member delegation from UNSC arrived in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday to see firsthand the plights of the Rohingya Muslims crammed in makeshift tents made of plastic sheets and bamboo shafts.
Nearly 700,000 members of the ethnic minority group crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar military launched a military crackdown in Rakhine state on August 25, 2017.
The Buddhist-majority Myanmar says it was an anti-insurgency operation while the United Nations termed it as “a textbook example of ethnic cleaning”.
The refugees handed a 13-point charter of demands to the diplomats. The demands include safe and dignified repatriation under UN supervision, deployment of international security arrangement in Rakhine and punishment of those who carried out the atrocities on the ethnic minority group.
The UNSC delegation led by Adolof Meza Cuadra Velasqez, a Peruvian diplomat, visited two camps – one on the zero-line of the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar and the other in Kutupalong. They talked to the victims of the Myanmar army atrocities that left many women raped, men killed and children thrown into fire.
The Security Council representatives will also visit Myanmar’s Rakhine state after the three-day tour of Bangladesh to be ended on Monday. They will meet with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
In Cox’s Bazar, the diplomats describe the Rohingya crisis a “very complex” issue. They, however, pledged to work together to find solution to the crisis.
“We are here to learn more about the situation in order to see how [what]we can do,” Velasqez, Peru’s ambassador to the UN, said at a news conference after visiting the camp.
He said his other colleagues are ready to work hard to overcome the “dire situation”.
Russian ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said the visit was necessary to see everything on the ground to find the best possible solution.
“But there is no magic solution; there is no magic stick to solve all these issues. The issues still for us to promote bilateral ways to resolve the issue,” he said.
He emphasized for constructive dialogue between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“We will try to convince both governments – government of Bangladesh and government of Myanmar to engage in constructive negotiation and discussion,” he said adding that the Security Council wants a good solution acceptable for all.
Haitao Wu, China’s representative in the UN, suggested for finding the root causes of the violence in Myanmar. “This is very complicated issue. We need to work together to address it,” he said.
Bangladesh’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam said Bangladesh has been forced to shoulder Myanmar’s internal conflict. He said his government would extent every possible assistance to the UNSC to resolve the conflict.
“The problem has come from there (Myanmar) and the solution lies there as well,” Alam told reporters after the visit.
Security Council would continue to work on enabling the refugees to return to Myanmar, said Karen Pierce, the UK’s ambassador to the UN.
Bangladesh and Myanmar in November signed an agreement for the repatriation of the Rohingya Muslims. But the process halted because of the unpreparedness in Myanmar. Aid agencies have been asking the Myanmar government to improve the situation in Rakhine state, where access to the humanitarian agencies is still restricted.