FMs, EU foreign policy chief to visit Bangladesh ahead of ASEM meet in Nay Pyi Taw

The foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden and Japan and the European Union’s foreign policy and security chief will visit Bangladesh before attending an Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Myanmar next week, media reports said.

Germany’s Mr Sigmar Gabriel, Sweden’s Ms Margot Wallstrom, Japan’s Mr Taro Kono and the EU’s Ms Federica Mogherini will attend the ASEM foreign ministers’ meeting in Nay Pyi Taw on November 20 and 21.

During their visit to Bangladesh they will travel with the Foreign Minister, Mr A.H. Mahmood Ali, to Cox’s Bazaar on November 19 to visit camps housing Rohingya Muslims who fled violence in Myanmar, the reports said.

As well as meeting refugees the delegation would also see the huge humanitarian support operation involving the Bangladesh government, United Nations agencies and local and international NGOs, Dhaka-based website reported, quoting the Bangladesh foreign ministry.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August to escape violence after attacks by Islamic militants led to a fierce counter-insurgency campaign by the Tatmadaw.

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The influx has raised the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to about 800,000, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

A Bangladesh foreign ministry statement said the visit by the three foreign ministers and Mogherini “reflects the support for Rohingyas in the international community,” reported.

“It would also lend strong support to Bangladesh’s ongoing diplomatic efforts, bilateral as well as multilateral, for early and sustainable return of forcibly displaced Rohingyas in safety and dignity,” the statement said.

In a related development, a UN envoy has called for stronger measures to protect and assist victims of sexual violence among the refugees.

The UN special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Ms Pramila Patten, made the call on November 16 after a visit to Bangladesh that included trips to Cox’s Bazaar, the UN News Centre reported.

“My observations point to a pattern of widespread atrocities, including rape, gang-rape by multiple soldiers, forced public nudity and humiliation, and sexual slavery in military captivity directed against Rohingya women and girls,” Patten said.

Patten said her office had agreed with the Bangladesh government to cooperate on documentation, training, capacity-building and strengthening programs to assist victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

The Tatmadaw exonerated itself of alleged human rights abuses in northern Rakhine in an internal investigation posted on the Facebook page of Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on November 13.

The Tatmadaw said its investigation found no cases of its soldiers shooting and killing Muslim villagers, raping women, or torturing prisoners.

It also denied that security forces had torched Muslim villages or used “excessive force.”

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