Rohingya arrivals 'untenable' for Bangladesh

Queen Rania of Jordan visits a refugee camp in Bangladesh and says a stronger response is needed to the plight of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims.

GENEVA • Nearly a million Rohingya refugees have fled violence in Myanmar, an "untenable situation" for neighbour Bangladesh, the country's United Nations envoy said yesterday, calling on Myanmar to let them return.

About 600,000 people have crossed the border since Aug 25, when insurgent attacks on security posts were met by a ferocious counter-offensive by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state, which the UN has called ethnic cleansing.

"This is the biggest exodus from a single country since the Rwandan genocide in 1994," Mr Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, told a UN pledging conference.

"Despite claims to the contrary, violence in Rakhine state has not stopped. Thousands still enter on a daily basis," he said.

Bangladesh's interior minister was in Yangon yesterday for talks to find a "durable solution", Mr Ahsan said.

But Myanmar continued to issue "propaganda projecting (the) Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh", Mr Ahsan said, adding: "This blatant denial of the ethnic identity of (the) Rohingya remains a stumbling block."

Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be stateless, although they trace their families' presence in the country for generations.

Jordan's Queen Rania visited Rohingya refugee camps yesterday and called for a stronger response from the international community to the plight of the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh to escape "systematic persecution" in Myanmar.

"One has to ask, why is the plight of this Muslim minority group being ignored?

"Why has the systematic persecution been allowed to play out for so long?" she asked, after touring the camps.

The United Nations has appealed for US$434 million (S$591 million) to provide life-saving aid to 1.2 million people for six months.

"We need more money to keep pace with intensifying needs. This is not an isolated crisis, it is the latest round in a decades-long cycle of persecution, violence and displacement," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the talks.

"Children, women and men fleeing Myanmar are streaming into Bangladesh traumatised and destitute," he added.

"We assess we have pledges of around US$340 million," Mr Lowcock said.

He reiterated the UN call on Myanmar to allow "full humanitarian access across Rakhine" where aid agencies have been denied entry.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2017, with the headline 'Rohingya arrivals 'untenable' for Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe