Bangladesh has summoned Myanmar’s ambassador over controversial comments made by the Myanmarese religion minister about Dhaka and Rohingya Muslim refugees, and called for legal action against him.
Senior officials at the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Ambassador Lwin Oo had been called in after Myanmar’s religion minister, Thura Aung Ko, claimed in a video release that Rohingya Muslims living as refugees in Bangladesh were being “populated” and “brainwashed” by Bangladesh to then “march on” the Buddhist-majority country.
The Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry denounced Thura’s remarks as “provocative.”
“We strongly protest their minister’s provocative remarks. It also hurt Muslim sentiments,” a senior official in the Bangladeshi ministry anonymously told Reuters. “If you give them citizenship and their property back, they will run for Myanmar. Instead of doing that, you are making provocative statements? This is unfortunate.”
In his video, Aung Ko said Bangladesh was “not letting them (the refugees) return,” using the term “Bengalis” to refer to the Rohingya Muslims, who consider themselves natives to Myanmar.
“If [they] release them, the population will drop,” he said in the video. “And then, they, at the camps, also feed and brainwash Bengali youths to truly march. They will march on Myanmar. The future goal of those over-populated Bengalis is to march on Myanmar.”
The Rohingya Muslims, who had previously been based in Myanmar’s northwestern state of Rakhine, were subjected to a campaign of killings, rape, and arson attacks by the military, backed by the country’s majority Buddhist extremists, mainly between late 2016 and August 2017 in what the United Nations (UN) has concluded was genocide.
The brutal campaign forced some 700,000 Rohingya to flee their homeland since August 2017 and seek refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.
Many of the displaced Rohingya are either living in squalid camps or just across the border in a plot of land known as the “no man’s land.”
The Rohingya Muslims, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and are branded illegal emigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.