By SM Najmus Sakib
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) - Bangladesh on Wednesday condemned as “racist” a Myanmar official branding Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh as being “brainwashed” members of an “extreme religion.”
On Tuesday Thura Aung Ko, Myanmar’s religion minister, said Bangladesh was "not letting them [Rohingya] return," claiming the Rohingya Muslim refugees living in Bangladesh are being "brainwashed".
“An extreme religion encourages having three or four wives and giving birth to 15 to 20 children," he said in a video published by Radio Free Asia. "After three, four, five decades in this Buddhist country, the Buddhist community will certainly become the minority."
In November, a plan to repatriate an initial group of 2,260 Rohingya from camps in Bangladesh was suspended, as the refugees feared renewed persecution by the Myanmar government and military.
Summoning Myanmar’s ambassador in Dhaka, the Foreign Ministry blasted the remarks as reflecting the country’s “racist” policy towards its citizens, reported local media.
Senior ministry officials told reporters that the current Myanmar government follows the previous military junta’s “racist” principle towards Rohingya Muslims in order to curry local popular support.
Ministry officials added that such remarks insults Muslims, which is unacceptable, and also rebuffed the claim that Bangladesh is keeping the Rohingya from returning.
In fact the Myanmar stance against the Rohingya causes their unwillingness to return, they added.
- Violence and oppression
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into neighboring Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.