By SM Najmus Sakib and Md. Kamruzzaman
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – The repatriation of Rohingya refugees is a matter of “real urgency,” and the international community “must do everything possible” to ensure their safe return to Myanmar, the prime minister of Bangladesh said Thursday.
Speaking at an event in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina decried the inaction of world powers as a shock for Bangladesh, saying its resources are being severely strained as it hosts some 1.2 million Rohingya on humanitarian grounds.
Millions of Rohingya have been living in refugee camps in Bangladesh’s southern Cox’s Bazar district after fleeing from Myanmar’s Rakhine State following a brutal military crackdown in in August 2017.
Hasina said Dhaka has reposed its trust in the global community for the past four years, but its “calls have remained unheeded and hopes unfulfilled.”
A failure to resolve the issue will “jeopardize our collective security … [and] potentially destabilize the entire region,” she warned in her address at the event, which was organized by Bangladesh and cosponsored by eight countries and organizations, including Turkey, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the European Union.
“On the regional front, we have tried to take on board the major powers, including China and India. We have all along tried to have more active involvement of the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” Hasina said.
“At the multilateral front, we kept the issue on the table by UN resolutions engaging important countries and the UN agencies, but sadly our efforts … have not generated any tangible outcome yet.”
She said the world needs to “go beyond words and rhetoric,” stressing that repatriation is also “the cherished desire of the Rohingya.”
Ensuring accountability of those responsible for the community’s persecution in Myanmar is imperative as there should never be “impunity for such a heinous crime,” the premier added.
Hasina laid out a five-point course of action for the international community, including revision of efforts in view of the changed political scenario in Myanmar following the February coup and enhanced efforts by ASEAN members.
- ‘Vaccines must be global public goods’
In her address to the virtual COVID-19 summit convened by the US president, the Bangladeshi premier called for vaccines to be declared “global public goods.”
Hasina criticized the monopoly over vaccine production and supply, saying that developing and less-developed countries must be allowed to manufacture the jabs domestically.
“To guarantee universal access, local production of vaccines by developing countries and LDCs [less-developed countries] which have the capacity must be allowed,” she emphasized.
Detailing Bangladesh’s vaccination strategy, she said her government aims to target 20 million people per month until 80% of the country’s population is inoculated by August 2022.
According to government data, the South Asian nation of some 170 million people has managed to fully vaccinate just about 11% of its population.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Bangladesh is now over 1.5 million, including a death toll inching toward 27,500.