Updated at 3:25 p.m. ET on 2021-04-09
US Special envoy John Kerry said democracy must be restored in Myanmar to reduce the burden of the Rohingya refugees on Bangladesh during a brief visit to the South Asian country in support of a climate summit. Washington organized.
The US diplomat gave full praise to Bangladesh for its “extraordinary” generosity in protecting refugees from Myanmar, and even mentioned Dhaka’s controversial decision to relocate thousands of people. to a flooded island.
He called the current situation in Myanmar “one of the greatest moral challenges of the planet today” when referring to a coup and the deadly violence against civilians by the military itself that caused hundreds. thousands of wounded Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in 2017.
“Bangladesh is one of the best hands to help, you gave them an island. You made it possible for everyone to find a future, but it’s not a long-term future and that doesn’t solve the problem, ”Kerry, President Joe Biden’s climate special envoy, told reporters. member in Dhaka.
“So the new government, Minister [of State] Tony Blinken, very aware of this issue and very focused on it, and I know that he and the government will do everything in their power to try to restore democracy to Myanmar, and when doing so. trying can help ease the pressure and challenges represented by the Rohingya, ”said Kerry in response to a question from a BenarNews reporter.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, who appeared at a press conference with Kerry, asked Washington’s special envoy for help in the repatriation of the Rohingya – about 1 million of them were sheltering in crowded refugee camps cast in Cox’s Bazar district, southeastern of the country.
The majority crossed the border to Bangladesh while escaping a brutal military attack in their home state of Rakhine in 2017.
“We hope that a proactive US initiative can help bring about a safe and decent return,” Momen said.
Addressing climate issues, Kerry said, “We are very excited in the United States about the prospect of this transition to cleaner energy, this new future to protect our world for our children and grandchildren. , future generations and we live on a global scale, the responsibility to take the lead and do what young people around the world are asking us to do – act like adults. And get the job done ”.
Kerry’s visit to South Asia comes ahead of President Biden’s virtual “Climate Leaders Summit”, from April 22 to 23 and will include 40 world leaders. His one-hour visit to the Bangladeshi capital was the third and final stop on the official trip, also taking him to Abu Dhabi and New Delhi.
“[W]We are delighted that Bangladesh will be on President Biden’s summit, but equally important, we are happy that we are now capable of working together, intentionally moving forward, to bring technology, research and finance come to do what we know we have to do, ”he said, referring to an invitation he formally sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during his short visit to Dhaka. .
Hasina welcomed Kerry at his residence and praised US efforts under Biden to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, after the previous administration had withdrawn the United States from the international pact to reduce carbon footprint in combating global warming.
The BSS state news agency said: “The return of the US to the Paris Agreement will create a new impetus for climate diplomacy.
Rohingya and the climate crisis
Linking the Rohingya crisis to the climate crisis, Momen discussed how badly the refugee camps had been.
“About 1.1 million Rohingya are destroying our forests and ecosystems.
As many as seven protected forests, with a total area of about 2,500 acres, were wiped out at Cox’s Bazar when the Rohingya began fleeing Myanmar in August 2017, cutting trees for firewood and building shelters. Temporary hiding, area police Ali Kabir said two months later.
A landslide that struck near camps in 2018 killed at least a dozen people, including a young Rohingya being crushed by fallen trees.
More broadly, climate change is an urgent issue for this South Asian country.
Bangladesh loses 2.5% of its annual national income due to extreme weather-related extreme weather events, according to analysts. Experts have also warned of the impact of global warming eroding as sea levels rise and threatening low-lying areas along the country’s coast, where millions of people live.
Bangladesh hosts the Climate Vulnerability Forum, a group of 48 countries with 1.2 billion people and with a combined gross domestic product of 2.3 trillion USD. Forum members contribute only 5% of total emissions.
The country has been at the forefront of climate negotiations as one of the leaders of the LDCs.
Md Ziaul Haque, an official representing Bangladesh at climate negotiations, told BenarNews, an online news service under RFA, said: “There are many issues that need to be addressed in the talks. climate change.
“In terms of carbon emissions, we are at the bottom of the table, but we are one of the severely affected countries. Our main requirement is to reduce carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and developed and developing countries have to do just that, ”he said.
“Unless they reduce emissions, we will continue to be affected by extreme weather conditions like rising temperatures, sea level rise, frequent and severe floods, droughts, river erosion, storm, etc. ”
Kerry spoke of the “incredible spirit and helping hand” that Bangladesh gave to the Rohingya refugees.
A representative of the World Food Program in Bangladesh said efforts to provide food for the Rohingya cost about $ 11 million a month.
The United States is the leading donor of the humanitarian response to the crisis in the Rakhine states of Myanmar and Bangladesh, providing nearly $ 1.2 billion since August 2017. In October 2020, The US has donated $ 200 million of the $ 600 million in virtual fundraising to support the United Nations in its efforts to support the Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar.
Meanwhile, since December of last year, Bangladesh has moved at least 18,000 Rohingya from mainland refugee camps to Bhashan Char, an island in the Bay of Bengal.
The government plans to relocate 100,000 Rohingya there as a way to ease crowding at Cox’s Bazar camps, though human rights groups and international humanitarian organizations have voiced concerns about possible vulnerability of the island to tornadoes. The government, which has built housing and infrastructure to accommodate the refugees, asserted that Bhashan Char is safe and that the refugees are voluntarily moving there.
Kerry also discussed US efforts to push Myanmar back into democracy.
On February 1, the military toppled the elected government in November 2020 and arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other political leaders. Since then, military and security forces have suppressed the protesters, killing at least 618 people, according to the Association for Supporting Political Prisoners, a Thai NGO.
Kerry, who served as US Secretary of State in the Obama administration for the second time (2013-2017).
“I have personally visited Naypyidaw and met with generals and we have tried very hard, held up, have a responsibility to meet the highest common standards of human behavior… they don’t respect that.
Reported by BenarNews, an online news service affiliated with RFA.