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‘Resolve Rohingya issue for better ties’

December 25, 2015

Resolution to the Rohingya issue, apart from increasing people-to-people interactions, is essential for taking relations between next-door neighbours Bangladesh and Myanmar to a new height of cooperation.

Such views came from an interactive session attended by the civil society representatives from Myanmar and their local counterparts, at Prothom Alo office on Monday.

The Myanmar citizens also exchanged views on the freedom of expression that could help the two countries to come closer to each other.

Visiting Bangladesh for the first time, they found the neighbouring country and people admirable. The delegation came to Dhaka on 17 December at the invitation of Research Initiative Bangladesh (RIB).

At the meeting, former Bangladesh ambassador to the US Humayun Kabir said the Rohingya problem involved the issue of their citizenship in Myanmar and it is important to resolve it for better relations.

“It’s a humanitarian issue as well as an issue of Myanmar’s national integration. This problem is not a problem of Myanmar alone; Bangladesh is also a sufferer,” he said.

The former diplomat mentioned that the number of Rohingya refugees is officially shown at 29,000 but practically half a million Rohingya people are staying in Bangladesh.

Member secretary of the national committee to protect oil, gas, and natural resources economist Anu Muhammad regretted that the peoples of the two countries have lack of understanding about each other despite being neighbours.

“We have to increase interaction between the peoples,” he said adding that the Rohingya issue remains a major irritant in the bilateral relations.

Professor of public health at Yangon University Than TunSein shared his ‘amazing experience’ of visiting Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar. “We saw prosperity in Bangladesh. In Ramu we witnessed how the government gives protection to people of different ethnicities and faiths,” he added.

The Myanmar civil society representative, following his visit to Liberation War Museum, said his love and respect for Bangladesh and her people has increased. “I understand your struggle for independence.”

President of PEN Myanmar Ma Thida said media freedom is an important issue as the country’s future will take a shape depending on how the media is able to play its role and how freedom is exercised.

She mentioned that the experience of Bangladesh could be valuable for Myanmar in this regard. She insisted that peoples of the two countries should have access to reliable information to know about each other and to know the reality.

Teacher of History at Yangon University Zaw Lynn Aung underscored the need for including Bangladesh's history into the curriculum of his country for better understanding the neighbhours.

Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua said despite religious tolerance, the recent attacks on minorities show that intolerance is on the rise. He mentioned that the official surveillance on Facebook is not a good sign for individual liberty.

Moderated by Prothom Alo’s managing editor Sajjad Sharif, the meeting was also addressed by Brac University professor Dina Siddique, RIB’s executive director Meghna Guha Thakurta, Prothom Alo’s associate editors Abdul Qaiyum and Anisul Hoque and consulting editor Kamal Ahmed.

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