The Myanmar government has rejected an offer by its powerful neighbor China to mediate a diplomatic dispute that the Southeast Asian country is having with Bangladesh over the recent exodus of minority Rohingya Muslims, a government spokesman said on Monday.
On April 25, China offered to step in between the two nations that are butting heads over the plight of tens of thousands of Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh during a violent crackdown in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began last October.
The stateless Rohingya have been living in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar near the border with Myanmar while the two countries hash out which one should take responsibility for them. Many people in Myanmar believe the Rohingya are illegal refugees from Bangladesh and refer to them as “Begalis.”
“Myanmar and Bangladesh are already trying to solve the Rakhine issue,” Zaw Htay, spokesman of the State Counselor’s Office, said at a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw on April 29. “Our government’s policy is to resolve this problem bilaterally between Myanmar and Bangladesh.”
“We can understand China’s offer for mediation, as it has its interests in the region such as with the Kyaukphyu pipeline but, as I have said, our policy is to resolve it [the issue] between Myanmar and Bangladesh ourselves,” he said.
The U.S. $1.5 billion oil pipeline connects Rakhine state’s deep-water port in the town of Kyaukphyu in the Bay of Bengal with the city of Kunming, capital of southwestern China’s Yunnan province, but has not begun pumping crude from Myanmar to China because the countries have yet to finalize the terms of the deal and sign a contract.
China also wants to mitigate the row between Myanmar and Bangladesh to ensure that its infrastructure development interests in both nations remain secure.
Myanmar has come under heavy fire by the international community and rights groups for possible “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya during the four-month crackdown and for its basic treatment of the members of the group, who are denied citizenship and other basic rights in the Buddhist-majority country.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.