Senior members of Bangladesh’s Parliament are in the Kingdom for a four-day visit to seek the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.
Led by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman Muhammad Faruk Khan, the Bangladeshi delegation on Monday met Cambodia’s National Assembly first vice-president Nguon Nhel and Chheang Vun, the head of the Assembly’s Commission on Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Information and Media.
Vun said while the meeting also touched on strengthening both parliaments’ ties, the Bangladeshi delegation specifically sought the Kingdom’s support to repatriate Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.
It requested the National Assembly to push the government to show a firm stance on such repatriation.
“I told them that Cambodia’s stance is in line with the other nine Asean member states. Because Myanmar is an Asean member, we suggested that the Rohingya issue not be internationalised. It means the problem should be solved at a bilateral level.
“Both governments should work together to find a suitable solution for those [refugees]. Asean’s stance is that we want to see the problem resolved peacefully through dialogue and cooperation,” Vun said.
Vun called on Myanmar to accept the repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
He said the Kingdom was content that Bangladesh and Myanmar had met and reached a repatriation deal in 2017. He expressed high hopes that the repatriation would be carried out smoothly.
Citing post-war experience with the repatriation of Cambodians from refugee camps in Thailand in the early 1990s, Vun said it should take place only when a country is secure in terms of economic and political stability.
“So after the repatriation, can they live in a safe environment and enjoy good living conditions like other people? That has to be ensured. This is our country’s policy under Prime Minister Hun Sen. Everyone is happy with it,” he said.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), over 900,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are living in Cox’s Bazar on the southeast coast of Bangladesh.
Koy Kuong, the spokesperson for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said on Monday that its minister Prak Sokhonn would meet the Bangladeshi delegation on Wednesday.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said a solution to the Rohingya crisis should be sought with UN participation.
He said before any repatriation takes place, the Rohingyas’ homes in Myanmar should be rebuilt after they were burned down.
“The repatriation should be done in a humanitarian way and seen by the five superpowers. They can monitor it to ensure that bloodshed is avoided,” he said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said Cambodia has had a similar refugee crisis in the past. The international community had extended its benevolence to Cambodian refugees by resettling some of them in third countries and generously assisting the rest to return and resettle in their homeland, he said.
He called on the government and other countries to return the same benevolence to Rohingya refugees.
“Our prime minister should seize this golden opportunity to do so on behalf of our nation. He should launch an initiative to push for the settlement of this particular regional crisis.
“[Prime Minister] Hun Sen should get fellow Asean leaders, including [Myanmar’s State Counsellor] Aung San Suu Kyi to join forces with him to resolve it,” he said.
Mong Hay continued that as a benevolent gesture, Cambodia should offer to take 100 Rohingya refugees families to settle in the Kingdom.
“Our Khmer nation is smart enough to give its leader support for both his initiative and his offer of resettlement of those Rohingya families. Our leader himself and some of his fellow countrymen have hands-on experience addressing the refugee crisis,” he said.