Sheikh Hasina Slams US Lawmaker’s Proposal To Integrate Myanmar’s Rakhine State With Bangladesh

Earlier this week, a Bangladesh court sentenced nine opposition activists to death for 1994 attack on a train carrying the PM.

DESPARDES — Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has slammed a proposal by a top US lawmaker to integrate Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state with her country.

Ms Hasina’s public reaction came as the proposal was placed in the US Congress on June 13 seeking integration of Myanmar’s Rakhine with Bangladesh as millions of persecuted Rohingyas have fled Myanmar and taken refugee in the neighboring nation’s Chittagong port city.

The proposal was made by Congressman Bradley Sherman, Chairman of the Sub-committee on Asia Pacific, during a hearing on the State Department’s budget for South Asia.

Addressing a press conference in Dhaka, a visibly irked Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh would not do anything which would affect regional stability and peace.

She said Bangladesh honored Myanmar’s sovereignty while Rakhine was part of its territory and what Dhaka wanted was the safe return of the Rohingyas to their homeland.

Ms Hasina asked Mr Sherman to rather mobilize a campaign for the safe return of the Rohingyas to their homeland.

She said the help Bangladesh extended to the Rohingyas is on humanitarian grounds which “does not mean, it wants to annex the Rakhine state”.

According to UN estimates, nearly 700,000 minority Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in the Rakhine state since August 2017 when the army launched a military crackdown.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as an ethnic group and insists that they are Bangladeshi migrants living illegally in the country.

The continuous violence on the Rohingyas also made the UN term it as an “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Hasina said every nation was a sovereign nation.

“Each state is a sovereign one. Why they want to attach Rakhine State with us? The US congressman expressed his audacity by placing such proposal,” she said.

However, Ms Hasina said Bangladesh was maintaining a cordial relation with Myanmar despite it imposed its burden on its neighbour by driving out their nationals. 

Ms Hasina addressed the press conference a day after she returned from a five-day trip to China, largely to draw Beijing’s effective support to mount pressure on Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

She said the Chinese leaders assured her of pursuing their crucial ally Myanmar to end the crisis by taking back the Rohingya Muslims– Rohingya speak Bengali dialect almost similar to Bangladeshis.

“China assured us it will remain beside Bangladesh in the repatriation of the Rohingyas,” Ms Hasina said.

With an estimated US$31 billion investments, China has emerged as a major investor in Bangladesh – mainly in the infrastructure and energy sectors.

Earlier this week, a Bangladesh court sentenced nine opposition activists to death for 1994 attack on a train carrying PM Sheikh Hasina.

The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), led by Hasina’s arch-rival and former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, rejected Wednesday’s verdict, calling it politically motivated.