India says Myanmar must take back Rohingya Muslims

A Rohingya refugee woman who crossed the border from Myanmar this week cries while waiting to get a shelter in Kotupalang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on Saturday. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 October 2017
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India says Myanmar must take back Rohingya Muslims

DHAKA, Bangladesh: India’s foreign minister told Bangladesh’s government that Myanmar must take back Rohingya Muslims to resolve one of Asia’s largest refugee crises in decades, the government said.
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj conveyed her message Sunday during a meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who ordered border guards and her administration to allow the Rohingya to cross the border and shelter in makeshift camps in the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar.
Nearly 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state since Aug. 25 to escape persecution that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
The United News of Bangladesh agency reported that Swaraj said, “Myanmar must take back their nationals ... this is a big burden for Bangladesh. How long will Bangladesh bear it? There should be a permanent solution to this crisis.”
She met earlier with her Bangladeshi counterpart A.H.Mahmood Ali and said India was worried about the violence. Human rights groups have interviewed refugees who said Myanmar security forces killed indiscriminately, committed rapes and burned villages to force Rohingya to leave.
“We’ve urged the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population,” Swaraj said in a statement.
Swaraj also said India supported the implementation of recommendations suggesting recognition of the Rohingya ethnic group within Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and are effectively stateless.
In the statement, she also said creating economic opportunity in the troubled Rakhine state could help resolve the situation.
“In our view, the only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities living in the state,” she was quoted as saying in the statement.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister urged India to play a greater role by “exerting sustained pressure” on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis.
India’s shift toward resolving the Rohinga crisis would mean a lot to China’s policy to support Myanmar.
An official with China’s ruling Communist Party said Saturday the country supports Myanmar in “safeguarding peace and stability” and won’t join other nations in condemning the government’s actions. Beijing condemns “violence and terror acts” and backs measures to restore order, said the vice minister of the party’s International Department, Guo Yezhou, apparently referring to attacks by Rohingya rebels on Myanmar security forces.


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”