Union Minister U Kyaw Tin rebutted the remarks made by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister on Rakhine issue Ministry of International Cooperation/ Nay Pyi Taw / October 25, 2019

(25-10-2019, Baku)

Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin rebutted the remarks made by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister on Rakhine issue at the Preparatory Ministerial Meeting of the 18th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement held on 23 October 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In his statement, the Union Minister highlighted that the issue of Rakhine is not an issue of religious persecution. It is absolutely not an issue of driving an ethnic group out of the country, as wrongfully alleged. Myanmar strongly objected to the labelling the issue as ethnic cleansing or genocide by Bangladesh. In fact, it is a political and economic issue involving cross-border migration since colonial time when immigrants from Bengal, mainly from Chittagong Region, were transferred en masse by the British colonial power into western townships of Rakhine for expanding rice productions. There was also another wave of mass migration across the porous border during the fight for Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. The migration problem was also compounded by the poverty, lack of rule of law and security. There has been deep rooted history of tensions, mutual mistrust and fear between the local ethnic communities and the migrant community. What is happening in the northern tip of Rakhine does not represent the whole country. In the remaining areas across the country, people of different faiths are living in harmony. Religious building and edifices of different faiths stand side by side in many cities of Myanmar. Myanmar fully shares the concern over the plight of all communities affected by the violence. It is important not to overlook the fact that the violence was ignited by provocative attacks by ARSA terror group against multiple police outposts in October 2016 and again in August 2017. The violence was committed by both sides and affected all communities.

The Union Minister reiterated Myanmar government’s full commitment to finding sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all the people in Rakhine State. The most pressing task between the two neighbours is to work together under the agreed mechanisms to remove all the obstacles hindering the repatriation. Myanmar has stated over and over again its readiness to receive all the displaced persons who have already been verified as former residents in Rakhine State. Since this is a migrant-related issue, this issue needs to be resolved bilaterally with Bangladesh. If both neighbours follow strictly the bilateral arrangement signed between the two countries, the repatriation process will be successful as it has been done in 1992. The main obstacle is the presence of hardliner groups and ARSA terror groups inside the camps in the Cox’s Bazaar who do not want repatriation but exert international pressure to advance their political agenda. He hoped that Bangladesh would not turn a blind eye to their presence in the camps. They are taking hostages the displaced persons to reach their political goals, by intimidating those advocating for return. Regardless of their threats, over 350 displaced persons have already come back. The other day, 29 more returnees have just returned to Rakhine State on their own volition. They have resumed their lives in conditions of safety and dignity. Despite Myanmar’s repeated request, Bangladesh has not sent back 444 Hindu displaced persons who have clearly expressed their desire to return. The Government of Myanmar is creating a conducive environment for the returnees in cooperation with the UN agencies as well as with our ASEAN friends, as well as, our traditional development partners in our region and beyond. The issue of Rakhine is a very complex, complicated one that requires time and space to educate the people and to build trust and harmony among the communities. Myanmar stands ready to resolve the issue with the cooperation of Bangladesh based on the bilateral agreement signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh.