Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bangladeshi PM asks Hun Sen for help in dealing with Rohingya crisis

Bangladeshi PM asks Hun Sen for help in dealing with Rohingya crisis

Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) walks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina past an honour guard upon her arrival at the Peace Palace yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Prime Minister Hun Sen (left) walks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina past an honour guard upon her arrival at the Peace Palace yesterday in Phnom Penh. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

Bangladeshi PM asks Hun Sen for help in dealing with Rohingya crisis

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday appealed to the Cambodian government to “support” her country in handling the refugee crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of Rohingya pour over its border fleeing violence and persecution in neighbouring Myanmar.

Prime Minister Hun Sen told reporters he had discussed the crisis with his counterpart during bilateral talks. “We also discussed the issue of the refugees, which is a very hard burden on Bangladesh,” he said.

“We provide consideration altogether about the repatriation of the refugees and hope that Bangladesh and Myanmar will work together smoothly for the safer return of the refugees back to Myanmar,” he said.

Hasina, meanwhile, maintained that the displacement of the Rohingya posed a threat to peace and stability for the whole region.

“I request Prime Minister Hun Sen for his support of a durable solution of the crisis,” she said, adding that bilateral negotiations with Myanmar were ongoing.

“Bangladesh continues to shelter more than 1 million Rohingya, among them are almost 700,000 Rohinya [who] fled atrocities in Myanmar [and] took shelter in Bangladesh recently,” she said, adding that bilateral negotiations with Myanmar were ongoing.

The mass exodus began after Rohingya separatists attacked police posts and an army base at the end of August, prompting severe reprisals by security forces targeting civilians and razing entire villages. Observers have characterised Myanmar’s campaign against the Rohingya as ethnic cleansing.

Rohingya asylum seekers stand along a track running through the Thankhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.
Rohingya asylum seekers stand along a track running through the Thankhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Ed Jones/AFP

In an opinion piece published yesterday, Hasina stressed that Bangladesh is unable to shelter the refugees much longer.

Chum Sounry, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, declined to comment on Cambodia’s stance as he was waiting for an official statement.

In the past, Hun Sen has said the situation in Rakhine State was an internal matter that should not be internationalised, but in October he acknowledged that the exodus constituted a “humanitarian crisis of refugees”.

Nonetheless, Cambodia voted against a United Nations resolution last month calling on the Myanmar government to protect the rights of the Rohingya.

Miguel Chanco, lead Asean analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said practical support from Cambodia was unlikely, though Hun Sen might voice support for an agreement signed last week between Bangladesh and Myanmar regarding potential repatriation of Rohingya back to Rakhine State.

“From my perspective there’s not much Cambodia can do to directly support Bangladesh with regards to the Rohingya refugee crisis – and there’s not much it should do, considering how [it has] botched the refugee deal it signed with Australia in 2014 and its poor handling of the Montagnard refugees from neighbouring Vietnam,” he said, referring to a controversial deal to accept refugees detained by Australia, and to the government’s repeated rejection of refugee claims by persecuted minorities fleeing Vietnam.

“What Hun Sen’s government is likely to do, though, is provide rhetorical backing for Myanmar’s agreement with Bangladesh.”

Southeast Asia expert Paul Chambers predicted that Cambodia could, and likely would, assist Bangladesh to the extent that it could.

“Cambodia can help Bangladesh in terms of offering public support for, and thus legitimizing, Bangladesh’s returning of the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar,” he said in an email.

The fact that China pushed for the agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh would probably play a big part in how Cambodia, Chambers added, calling China “Hun Sen’s economic and political patron”.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he couldn’t comment on whether Cambodia would provide support to Bangladesh, but reiterated the government’s principle of noninterference.

“We do not do any internal interference at all,” he said, adding that bilateral agreements between Myanmar and Bangladesh could help to “find a good solution for all”.

Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean

MOST VIEWED

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    The Ministry of Health has issued a directive on the treatment of people who have tested positive for the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, following a suggestion from Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of January 21. The directive permits home quarantine for those who

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • Hun Sen gets 4th Covid shot, urges compatriots to follow

    Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany on January 14 received their fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine and called on compatriots to follow suit as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in the community. This marks the launch of Cambodia's fourth-dose vaccination campaign,

  • Fourth dose Covid booster drive jabs 43K in two days

    In the first two days of the fourth-dose Covid-19 vaccination campaign, more than 43,000 people volunteered to get the jabs, while over 4.6 million people have received a third shot. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said that fourth-dose vaccinations, which began on January 14 exclusively with the Pfizer

  • Singapore backs Cambodia's efforts on Myanmar

    Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong supports Cambodia in its efforts to seek a solution to the ongoing Myanmar crisis as the chair of ASEAN. Lee expressed his support during a meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen via videoconference on January 14, with the talks focused