Bangladesh has requested Cambodia’s help to encourage Myanmar to take more proactive steps in repatriating about a million Rohingya refugees who fled the conflict in Rakhine state.
Bangkok Post reported that since 2015, over a million Rohingya have fled from their homes in Rakhine state to nearby Cox’s Bazar. Currently, the area around Cox’s Bazar is classified as the world’s largest refugee settlement, with over 1.1 million Rohingya who settled in southeast Bangladesh.
Over the past few years, Bangladesh and Myanmar have formed a Joint Working Group to facilitate the repatriation of the Rohingya.
Md Nazmul Quaunine, Bangladeshi Ambassador to the Kingdom, yesterday requested a courtesy call with National Assembly president Heng Samrin.
Keo Piseth, Mr Samrin’s cabinet chief, told reporters after the meeting that Mr Md Nazmul informed Mr Samrin there are currently about one million Rohingya who have fled Myanmar and are living as refugees in Cox’s Bazar.
“Mr Ambassador has requested Samdech [Heng Samrin] as well as other Asean parliamentary presidents to support efforts to repatriate Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar,” Mr Piseth said.
Mr Piseth said Mr Samrin responded by informing Mr Md Nazmul that he would convey the request to the government and urged both Bangladesh and Myanmar to find peaceful means to resolve the refugee problem.
“Samdech [Heng Samrin] supports the repatriation of refugees to Myanmar,” he said.
Mr Piseth noted that the ambassador presented his credentials to King Norodom Sihamoni in April following his appointment by the Bangladesh government.
He said that during the meeting with Mr Samrin, Mr Md Nazmul informed Mr Samrin that their countries shared similar histories of undergoing civil wars.
He said the ambassador noted that Bangladesh had lost about three million people during the conflict with the then West Pakistan in 1971 and Cambodians had suffered under the Khmer Rouge genocidal regime.
In reply, Mr Samrin noted that Bangladesh and Cambodia established diplomatic relations in 1993 and for about two decades have been enjoying good relations.
“Both countries must strengthen cooperation and bilateral relations,” Mr Piseth quoted Mr Samrin as telling the ambassador.
He added that Mr Md Nazmul invited Mr Samrin to pay an official visit to Bangladesh to further strengthen the relations.
Mr Samrin noted that both governments have also supported each other on the international stage, especially in efforts to maintain peace in the region and world.
“Samdech [Heng Samrin] also asked the ambassador to push for more commercial, investment, and tourism cooperation between both countries,” Mr Piseth said.
He noted that the chairman of the Bangladesh Parliament’s foreign affairs committee will visit the Kingdom at the end of this month.
Kin Phea, director-general of International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday said the Rohingya issue is a major concern among Asean countries and countries beyond the region.
“Support from Cambodia, as an Asean member state, to solve the refugee issue is very important,” he said, noting that if there was no concerted international support for repatriation, Myanmar will ignore the problem because it does not consider the Rohingya as its citizens.
Mr Phea noted that Cambodia had its own experience in repatriating about 300,000 Cambodian refugees from Thailand after achieving peace following the turbulent civil war that drove thousands to leave the Kingdom in the 1980s.