Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Bangladesh seeks ‘formal apology’ from Myanmar over ‘anti-Muslim’ comment

  • Senior Correspondent bdnews24.com
    Published: 2018-12-06 00:33:22 BdST

bdnews24
Myanmar Ambassador Lwin Oo. File Photo

The foreign ministry has summoned Myanmar Ambassador Lwin Oo and demanded a ‘formal apology’ for ‘anti-Muslim’ comments made by a minister.

Secretary to the Maritime Affairs Unit of Foreign Ministry Khurshed Alam conveyed the government’s strong protest to the ambassador when the latter met him at his office on Wednesday.

A senior official at the foreign ministry told bdnews24.com that the secretary asserted that the statement made by Myanmar's religion minister hurt the sentiment of the Bangladeshis. He also sought formal apology for the comment, said the official who cannot be quoted for this story.

Myanmar’s Minister for Religion on Tuesday said Rohingya Muslim refugees living in Bangladesh were being "brainwashed" into "marching" on the Buddhist-majority nation amid a diplomatic spat over the fate of the persecuted minority.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in the wake of a brutal army crackdown last August, UN agencies say, and are now living in crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

UN investigators have accused Myanmar soldiers of carrying out mass killings, rapes and burning hundreds of villages with "genocidal intent". Myanmar denies most of the allegations.

Thura Aung Ko said Bangladesh was "not letting them return", referring to the Rohingya as "Bengalis", a term commonly used in Myanmar to imply that they are recent interlopers from Bangladesh. Rohingya say they are native to Rakhine state.

"If we release them, the population will drop," he said in a video shared by NewsWatch, a news website.

"And then, they, at the camps, also feed and brainwash Bengali youths to truly march. They will march on Myanmar. The future goal of those over populated Bengalis is to march on Myanmar."

Plans to repatriate an initial group of 2,260 Rohingya from the camps last month were scrapped after none of the refugees agreed to go back, saying they wanted guarantees of safety and citizenship.

Myanmar has earlier signed an agreement with Bangladesh to take them back.