DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh is seeking international support for its plan to relocate Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar to a remote Bay of Bengal island that critics say is flood-prone and unliveable.
More than 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since the latest violence began on Aug. 25, joining more than 400,000 others already living there in cramped makeshift camps.
The United Nations’ top human rights official on Monday slammed Myanmar for conducting a “cruel military operation” against the Rohingya, branding it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
“This is creating a huge challenge for Bangladesh in terms of providing shelter as well as other humanitarian assistance to them,” Bangladesh’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday as Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali held talks with diplomats.
He urged the international community to push Myanmar to find a “permanent solution to this crisis” and “sought support for transportation of the Rohingya to Bhashan Char”, also known as Thengar Char.
Bangladesh, one of the world’s poorest and most crowded nations, plans to develop Thengar Char, which only emerged from the silt off Bangladesh’s delta coast 11 years ago and is two hours by boat from the nearest settlement.
It regularly floods during June-September monsoons and, when seas are calm, pirates roam the nearby waters to kidnap fishermen for ransom.
The plan to develop the island and use it to house refugees was criticised by humanitarian workers when it was proposed in 2015 and revived last year. Bangladesh, though, insists it alone has the right to decide where to shelter the growing numbers of refugees.
Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Nick Macfie