Friday, November 24, 2017

Bangladesh to continue trade with Myanmar despite Rohingya tension

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2017-09-11 01:04:15 BdST

Qamrul Islam. File Photo

Bangladesh is not halting trade with Myanmar right now despite the crisis in the Rakhine State that has forced thousands of Rohingya refugees to flee into Bangladesh, Food Minister Qamrul Islam has said.

Diplomatic efforts to send back the Rohingya refugees will continue in tandem, he added.

He was defending his recent visit to Myanmar in parliament on Sunday after facing a question from JaSoD MP Nazmul Haque Prodhan on the 'rationality' of buying rice from Myanmar when the neighbour was sending a huge number of refugees to Bangladesh.

"Trade will continue along with diplomatic activities," the minister replied.

He argued that the government chose Myanmar alongside other countries like Thailand and Vietnam to import rice because the neighbouring country could ship the consignments early and quickly.

"It takes only three days to bring rice from Myanmar. And the cost also drops," he said.

The government signed a deal with Myanmar to buy 300,000 tonnes of rice, he said, and added Myanmar was sending 120,000 tonnes now.

Qamrul went to Myanmar when tension between the two countries rose following violation of Bangladesh's airspace by Burmese helicopters last month amid an army operation in Rakhine that forced 300,000 to flee to Bangladesh after attacks on security posts and military base in the state on Aug 25.

Bangladesh is home to another 400,000 Rohingya refugees, who fled persecution in Myanmar for decades.

Meanwhile, Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya said in the same parliament session that the government was not 'reluctant' to shelter the refugees 'temporarily'.

He mentioned the government's plan to relocate the refugees to an island, Thengar Char, in Noakhali.

"We will keep the Rohingyas there for now, and also continue diplomatic efforts to send them back to their country," he added.

The minister described the plight of the newly arrived Rohingyas he saw during his recent visit to Cox's Bazar.

"They are in a terrible condition...A man carried an elderly person on his shoulder to reach Bangladesh. He travelled on foot and had to cross a river to save their lives," he said.

He urged all to stand by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to help the Rohingyas instead of 'doing politics' on the issue.