The Bangladeshi government has not endorsed a plan by China calling on Bangladesh and Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis bilaterally, foreign ministry officials in Dhaka said Tuesday, contradicting a Chinese assertion that both countries backed the plan.
During visits to Bangladesh and Myanmar in recent days, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a “three-phase solution” for the bilateral resolution of the crisis and both countries agreed to it, a spokesman for Beijing’s foreign ministry said Monday.
“This solution not only seeks to address the immediate situation, but also offers a final and fundamental solution to resolve the root cause of the Rohingya issue,” Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a news conference, according to an official transcript.
“[T]his three-phase solution has been agreed by both Bangladesh and Myanmar.”
Faisal Ahmed, the director general in charge of the East Asia and Pacific desk at the Bangladeshi foreign ministry, denied that Dhaka agreed to the three-phase proposal to end the crisis. It has seen as many as 621,000 Rohingya Muslims cross into southeastern Bangladesh since Aug. 25 as they escaped from a surge of violence in Rakhine, their home state in neighboring Myanmar.
“We have not given any reaction confirming that we have endorsed the Chinese proposal. Silence does not mean that we have endorsed it,” Ahmed told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
And, according to a director at the ministry who is involved on the Rohingya issue but who spoke on condition of anonymity, Bangladesh has not decided what it will do with the plan presented by Beijing.
“We have yet to take a decision on the Chinese proposal. The essence of Chinese proposal is that we resolve the Rohingya problem bilaterally with Myanmar. The Chinese proposal is almost similar with Myanmar’s. Myanmar wants to resolve the issue bilaterally,” the director told BenarNews.
“Basically, China wants Bangladesh to stop putting international pressure on Myanmar through the U.N. and other international bodies. They [China] want to dictate the Rohingya issue,” he said.
1 million refugees
He expressed skepticism that repatriating about 1 million Rohingya refugees who are sheltering at camps in southeastern Bangladesh could be resolved through bilateral efforts alone.
“It is very difficult to realize something [with] Myanmar bilaterally. This is because they breach their commitments very easily, as we have seen from our previous experiences,” the director said.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s foreign minister and the ministry’s director general were in Myanmar, where they were to hold bilateral talks later this week with Burmese officials concerning the Rohingya crisis.
The latest and unprecedented influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh began three months ago when the Burmese military launched a crackdown following deadly attacks on police and army posts blamed on Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents in northern Rakhine.
On Sunday, after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met in Naypyidaw with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Beijing’s foreign ministry issued a statement outlining the three-phased plan for a bilateral solution.
The first phase would consist of a ceasefire in Rakhine “so that the people can live in peace without being homeless.”
“With the joint efforts of all parties, the goal of this phase has [been] achieved fundamentally and what matters most is to avoid the recurrence of the situation, especially the war,” the statement said.
The second phase calls for all parties and the international community to encourage Bangladesh and Myanmar “to keep in touch and strengthen communication so as to find out feasible approaches to this issue.”
“The two parties have reached a basic consensus on a repatriation agreement at present and it is hoped that this agreement can be signed and implemented as soon as possible to achieve visible results,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.
The third and final phase of Beijing’s proposal calls for giving priority to solving poverty in Rakhine state because that is “the root cause of this issue.”
“[T]he best approach to solve the issue of the Rakhine State remained is to find an acceptable solution for both Myanmar and Bangladesh through bilateral consultations,” Wang Yi said, according to the statement.
“I just concluded my visit to Bangladesh and the country clearly expressed its willingness to continue the bilateral consultations with Myanmar and Myanmar took the same stand. This was the important consensus reached by China, Myanmar and Bangladesh,” he added.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.