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US official due Tuesday to discuss Rohingya issue

By Nizam Ahmed

A senior official of the United States (US) is expected to visit Bangladesh, Myanmar and Japan for a week from Tuesday next to discuss issues relating to conflicts in Myanmar and exodus of refugees from the country, officials said on Saturday.

US State Department Senior Advisor for Myanmar Mr W. Patrick Murphy will undertake the tour at such a time when fleeing Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have become a matter of concern for neighbouring countries.

The intrusion of Rohingyas in the south and the southeast Asian countries including Bangladesh have increased following spells of communal riots between Rohingya Muslims and local Buddhists in Rakhine state, in western Myanmar since June last year.

Bangladesh, which has been hosting about 400,000 unregistered refugees from Myanmar, sent back several hundred Rohingyas who wanted to take refuge in the country fleeing the recent communal riots in Myanmar.

However, before sending them back, the refugees were given medical treatment when needed, food and even cash so that they can support them at least for a few days, according to officials of Border Guard Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka which have been hosting lots of Rohingya refugees since Myanmar riots last year, recently rescued hundreds of boat-people, mostly Rohingyas from the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean.

Senior Adviser Mr Murphy is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka Tuesday on a two-day visit to Bangladesh. He will also travel to Myanmar and Japan until March 18, said a press release of the US State Department made available to the FE on Saturday.

Mr Murphy will visit Rangoon, Naypyitaw and other Myanmar cities from March 13 to March 16, and the Japanese capital Tokyo on March 17 and 18, the state department said.

The senior adviser is expected to discuss with the relevant authorities in Dhaka and civil society groups on reforms and other recent developments in Myanmar.

“In particular, he will discuss US policies, conflict in Rakhine and Kachin States, and international support, including responsible investment, to strengthen reform and reconciliation efforts,” said the press release.

Mr Murphy is also expected to pay a whirlwind visit to southeastern Cox’s Bazar region to see the plight of the Myanmar refugees now living there, officials at the ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) said in Dhaka.

“However the itinerary of Mr Murphy has no mention of a probable visit to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district, but the arrangement will be kept ready in case the senior US adviser wants to visit the refugee infested region,” a senior official at MoFA told the FE.

Like the US administration, Bangladesh has also a great concern on the Myanmar issues as tens of thousands of unregistered refugees from Myanmar have seriously affected socio economic situation in the refugee infested region.

The unregistered Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are now living in scattered squalid makeshift camps in southeastern region of Bangladesh near Myanmar border.

Besides the unregistered refugees, there are some 30,000 Rohingyas living in two official camps, run by the government of Bangladesh and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, near Cox’s Bazar resort town.

The inmates of the official camps are the remnants of some 250,000 Rohingya refugees, who fled Myanmar alleging persecution by military junta in late 1991 and 1992.

Recently, hundreds of Rohingya Muslims trying to flee their native Arakans (now Rakhine state) of Myanmar or their makeshift camps in Bangladesh have been nabbed or rescued from the sea in recent weeks in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, according to news agencies.

Since the communal clashes began in Arakan State in June 2012, the number of Rohingyas fleeing by boats to neighbouring Southeast Asian countries has increased significantly.

News agencies say many Rohingyas flee Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which considers them illegal Muslim settlers from neighboring Bangladesh.

However, Bangladesh refutes the stance of Myanmar and claims that the Rohingys have been the residents of Arakan for several hundred years.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has recently considered about 800,000 Rohingya people of Myanmar’s Rakhine state as the most persecuted people in the world.

With an estimated 115,000 people in Arakan displaced by the communal clashes, it is not surprising thousands more Rohingyas have fled from other parts of Arakan State not only by boat, but by air and overland too, say the news agencies.

Source The Financial Express