Dhaka urges ASEAN to step up on Rohingya issue

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed fresh concern over the plight of the 730,000 Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine state. (AP)
Updated 04 November 2019

Dhaka urges ASEAN to step up on Rohingya issue

  • Diplomats and experts on international affairs expressed optimism about Dhaka’s latest move

DHAKA: Bangladesh has sought a more effective role from ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to increase pressure on Myanmar to find a sustainable solution to the Rohingya repatriation issue.
The call came during a four-day summit which began in Thailand on Saturday. 
It follows a visit by a high-powered delegation from Dhaka — led by senior parliamentarian Faruk Khan, chair of the parliamentary standing committee at the Foreign Ministry — to Thailand and Singapore, to convince ASEAN member countries to have a stronger voice on the topic.
Thailand is the current chair of ASEAN while Singapore is also an influential member of the regional bloc. Both countries enjoy good trade relations with Myanmar.
Diplomats and experts on international affairs expressed optimism about Dhaka’s latest move.
Munshi Faiz Ahmad, chairman of the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said that as a regional platform, ASEAN had the scope to play a vital role in convincing Myanmar on the topic.
“Since the Rohingya issue is causing a security threat for this region, ASEAN can move forward for a sustainable solution of the Rohingya refugee crisis,” he told Arab News, adding that it was also important for international bodies to monitor the situation.
“Different civil authorities have a huge scope to get engaged in the repatriation process and for this ASEAN can be named as one of the best options since Myanmar is also an important member state of the regional platform,” he said.
During the last session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), China proposed a tripartite engagement — involving Bangladesh, Myanmar and China — to resolve the crisis.
However, Ahmad said that the only solution to resolving the crisis was to include the Rohingya in all discussions.
“The image of China as a superpower is very much involved with the sustainable solution of the Rohingya crisis since the country was involved in these diplomatic negotiations from the very beginning. To secure the Chinese investment in Rakhine, the country may push Myanmar in a stronger way in preparing a conducive environment for the Rohingya repatriation,” said Ahmad, who is also a former Bangladeshi ambassador to China.
Meanwhile, Professor Amena Mohsin of Dhaka University said that “the genocide which took place in Rakhine can’t be considered as an internal issue as it has become an international concern.”
Mohsin told Arab News: “At this stage, China should accelerate its diplomatic moves regarding the Rohingya issues since the country has blatantly supported Myanmar in the UN Security Council in recent months. But I am not sure how much China would play its role as there is an upcoming general election in Myanmar.”
On the ground, however, Bangladeshi authorities seem to be paying heed to Beijing’s advice, with foreign ministry officials holding talks with ambassadors from China and Myanmar in the last week of October.
“We have discussed all the aspects concerning the Rohingya repatriation and there was no immediate outcome or decision as the ambassadors were needed to consult the issues with their authorities. We will have the second meeting in next week,” Delwar Hossain, director general of the Southeast Asia desk of the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry, told Arab News.
“It was a good confidence-building initiative among the parties,” Hossain said.
However, during an address to the media on Thursday, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said that the Rohingya issue was “Myanmar’s failure.”
“With two failed attempts of repatriation, it is now clear that Myanmar could not build trust among the Rohingya. That is Myanmar’s failure,” he said.
Momen said that the situation in Rakhine needed to be verified by independent observers to determine whether the Myanmar authorities have succeeded in creating a conducive environment for the refugees.
He suggested that Bangladesh wants ASEAN involved in the whole repatriation process, which includes sending its civilian observers to Rakhine and monitoring the wellbeing of the Rohingya after repatriation. 
Bangladesh currently hosts more than 1,150,000 Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar refugee camp, most of whom fled from Rakhine following a brutal military crackdown by the Myanmar army in August 2017.


Daesh fighter stuck on Turkey-Greece borders returned to US

Updated 15 November 2019

Daesh fighter stuck on Turkey-Greece borders returned to US

  • Minister Suleyman Soylu: The American on the shared border with Greece has just been expelled from Istanbul by plane to the United States
  • The man, identified as Muhammad Darwis B, a US citizen of Jordanian descent, was captured in Syria on suspicion of ties to the Daesh group

ISTANBUL: A suspected US Daesh fighter, trapped for days between the Turkish and Greek borders, was sent back to the United States Friday, Turkey’s interior minister said.
“The American on the shared border with Greece has just been expelled from Istanbul by plane to the United States,” Suleyman Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkish media.
The man, identified as Muhammad Darwis B, a US citizen of Jordanian descent, was captured in Syria on suspicion of ties to the Daesh group, according to state news agency Anadolu.
Turkish authorities say the US had initially refused to accept him, and that he chose deportation to Greece, only for Greek authorities to refuse him entry on Monday.
He was trapped in no-man’s land between the borders, next to Turkey’s northeastern province of Edirne, though Turkish border guards gave him food and a car to sleep in at night, according to Anadolu.
There was an apparent breakthrough on Thursday, when Turkey said the US “committed to taking him back.”
Turkey has criticized Western countries for not taking back captured members of Daesh, and has lately publicized its efforts to deport extremists back to their countries of origin.
It follows criticism of Turkey’s offensive last month against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, which Western governments complained would undermine the fight against Daesh.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that Turkey had nearly 1,200 foreign members of Daesh in custody, and had captured 287 during the offensive in Syria.
The Hurriyet newspaper said Wednesday that 959 suspects were being prepared for deportation, with the largest numbers coming from Iraq, Syria and Russia.