NEW YORK — Bangladesh’s prime minister on Thursday proposed creating UN-supervised safe zones inside Myanmar to protect Rohingya Muslims fleeing a military crackdown to seek refuge in her country.
“These people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the UN General Assembly.
The United Nations says more than 420,000 people have fled for safety to Bangladesh in the face of the military’s “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State. The government and military have denied accusations of ethnic cleansing, blaming the destruction of around 200 villages on Muslim residents.
The military operation was sparked by attacks carried out by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on 30 police posts and a military camp on August 25.
Hasina accused Myanmar authorities of laying landmines on the border to prevent Rohingya from returning and said the United Nations must take immediate measures to find a solution to the crisis.
The prime minister laid out a five-point plan that called for the protection of the Rohingyas in “safe zones that could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.”
Myanmar must stop the violence and “the practice of ethnic cleansing”, agree to allow a UN fact-finding mission, ensure the return of refugees and abide by a report that recommends citizenship for the Rohingya, said Hasina. Most have been unable to access citizenship under Myanmar’s existing laws.
There has been mounting international outrage over the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, prompting the UN Security Council this month to call for an end to the violence.
The creation of such “safe areas” would require the approval of the Security Council where China is likely to exercise its veto power.