Guterres said that the UN would keep continued pressure on Myanmar on the issue and simultaneously give Bangladesh its constant support for resolving and handling the crisis.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres today met Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina along with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim at the beginning of his three-day visit here even as he promised continued UN pressure on Myanmar and support to Dhaka in handling the Rohingya refugee crisis.
“He (Guterres) said the UN would keep continued pressure on Myanmar on the issue and simultaneously give Bangladesh its constant support for resolving and handling the crisis,” Hasina’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim said after the meeting.
But, he said, the UN chief feared the ethnic minority Muslim Rohingyas could be exposed to radicalisation and stressed the importance of an education system for their protection from such phenomena.
“The UN secretary general said Myanmar should as well be made to understand what their action (crackdown on Rohingyas) could yield,” Karim said.
Guterres and Kim are among a number of high-profile global dignitaries who have extended support to Bangladesh amid the exodus of Muslim Rohingya refugees into the country from neighbouring Myanmar.
The UN secretary general and the World Bank chief arrived in Dhaka while International Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer, British Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, and UK Special Envoy for Gender Equality, Joanna Roper, are already in Bangladesh visiting crammed Rohingya camps in southeastern Cox’s Bazar, bordering Myanmar.
Bangladesh now shelters over a million Rohingyas since the influx began last August when the Myanmar military launched a crackdown in Buddhist-dominated western Rakhine state which the UN has described as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and rights groups have called a “genocide”.
More than 700,000 Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh, fleeing the violence.
The Bangladesh premier spoke about a history of the influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar into Bangladesh since 1977 until their latest exodus and told the UN chief that her government extended refuge to them only on humanitarian grounds.
But, she said, despite a bilateral agreement that Myanmar reached with Dhaka earlier his year for the Rohingyas’ repatriation, Naypyidaw was “yet to take any action for its implementation”.
The visit of Guterres and Kim came two days after China, said to have a crucial stake in the issue, also assured Bangladesh of its help in tackling the crisis.
The assurance came as Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing and both later jointly met with Myanmar’s Union Minister Kyaw Tint Swe in what officials said was an “informal meeting”.
International aid officials and media reports suggest Myanmar authorities have now started to take back some of the Rohingyas as transit camps in Rakhine state are ready to receive the refugees.