By SM Najmus Sakib
Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer said he had observed a positive change in the Myanmar army chief’s attitude towards repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.
On Monday night, while visiting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office in capital Dhaka, he said: “I was moderately encouraged by the positive posture of the [Myanmar] army chief."
In a statement published on state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), the premier's press secretary Ihsanul Karim said the ICRC chief had held conversations with Buddhist monks and civil society members during a visit to Myanmar, urging them to create a conducive atmosphere in Myanmar for the return of refugees.
There are 250,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar and the situation in Rakhine has to be stabilized, Maurer said, adding that he had visited 130 destroyed villages in Rakhine state.
Hasina said: "It’s good to hear that Myanmar appeared positive."
She told the ICRC head that the influx of Rohingya had created a serious burden on the small land area of Bangladesh.
Maurer assured the prime minister that Myanmar officials had agreed to facilitate the ICRC activities to help Rohingya live peacefully.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya, mostly children and women, have fled to bordering Bangladesh after Myanmar forces began a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
At least 9,400 Rohingya were killed in Myanmar's Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, 2017, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published last December, the global humanitarian group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
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.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.