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Dhaka denies ARSA militants’ presence at Rohingya camps

Dhaka denies ARSA militants’ presence at Rohingya camps
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a Rohingya refugee camp.
Dhaka, Oct 30 (IANS) | Publish Date: 10/30/2019 1:01:08 PM IST

Bangladesh on Wednesday denied presence of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in its territory and accused Myanmar of making hollow promises and unsubstantiated claims over the Rohingya crisis.

“The government of Bangladesh reaffirms Myanmar that there are no ARSA activities at Rohingya camps,” the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ARSA militants were behind an attack on government posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine region on August 25, 2017, which led to a brutal military crackdown forcing 7,40,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh, Efe news reported. Myanmar has classified the ARSA as a terrorist organisation and accused it of triggering the crisis and preventing Rohingyas from returning home to advance their political agenda.

“It’s not possible to operate terrorist bases anywhere in Bangladesh because of high alertness and effective preventive measures by the security forces in line with ‘zero-tolerance policy’ of the Sheikh Hasina government,” Dhaka said.

According to the statement, the Bangladesh government has taken ‘adequate measures’ to ensure that the potential returnees express their views on return without any influence or threat from any quarter.

“Myanmar must refrain from implicating Bangladesh into its internal political and security conundrum and may respond positively to Dhaka’s offer for a comprehensive cooperation mechanism to combat terrorism,” said the statement.

Bangladesh also denied Myanmar allegation of non-cooperation in Rohingya repatriation, saying no one agreed to return on two previous attempts, as Rohingyas are not assured of safety, security and sustainable livelihood in the Rakhine province.

“The government of Bangladesh maintains its principled position of not preventing anyone, regardless of ethnic and religious identity, who intends to return to Myanmar,” said the ministry. Two attempts to start the Rohingya repatriation failed with the latest being on August 22 when Bangladesh and UN High Commission for Refugees consulted 1,037 families.

In November 2018, Myanmar and Bangladesh carried out the first failed attempt to repatriate a small number of refugees.

Myanmar doesn’t recognise Rohingyas as citizens, arguing they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which has led to continued discrimination against the community as well as restrictions on their movement.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya ethnic minority seemed to be a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

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