MYANMAR REFUGEES IN BANGLADESH: EU urges talks with new Myanmar government

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The leader of the delegation of the European Parliament, Jean Lambert, on Friday pointed out there might be an opportunity to find a solution on the issue of repatriation of Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals living in the country, as a new government has taken over in Myanmar.
‘A new government in Myanmar now may be an opportunity for more dialogue [on the issue] and [in reaching] a solution,’ Jean Lambert, also Chair of the European Parliament Delegation related to South Asia, said.
Lambert was speaking to newsmen at a press conference at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital, prior to leaving Dhaka, wrapping up her four-member delegation’s
three-day visit to Bangladesh.
Lambert said her team raised the issue in their meeting with the foreign minister.
She however said a solution might not come about very fast.
‘In the meantime, of course, we know that the situation is extremely difficult,’ she said.
She said during their delegation’s visit to Myanmar, they pressed the issue before the Myanmar government.
The four-member delegation called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Foreign Minister, Law Minister, Commerce Minister, and Bangladesh Nationalist Party Chairperson Khaleda Zia during their visit.
Richard Howitt of Britain’s Labour Party and Vice-Chair of the Delegation to South Asia, Ivan Stefanec from the Christian Democrats of Slovakia, and Sajjad Karim of the Committee on International Trade of the UK’s Conservative Party, are the other members of the delegation.
They also met business leaders, members of civil society and non-governmental organisations.
During their meeting with the Prime Minister, Lambert said they expressed their ‘serious concern’ about the human rights situation in the country and raised the issue of blogger murders.
‘The life of every Bangladeshi citizen is important and we asked for full and impartial investigations into all the cases,’ she said.
She also urged the government to create an environment where bloggers or other free thinkers feel that their freedom of expression was ‘valued.’
She said freedom of expression and press freedom are parts of democracy and that ‘it is fair to say that we have some concerns about what is happening to a number of editors.’
In November, 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the state of freedom of expression in Bangladesh and called upon the government to re-open all media houses that had been closed down.
The resolution also condemned the increasing attacks by Islamist extremists on secularist writers, bloggers, religious minorities and foreign aid workers in Bangladesh.
Lambert said during their meetings, they discussed issues related to freedom of expression, human rights, trade, ready-made garments, and climate change.
She, however, said that the EU would not make any recommendations on the mechanism of overseeing general elections in Bangladesh, but it believes ‘the earlier the issue is discussed and agreed, the better.’
‘We’ll not make any recommendation. It’s something to be decided by the people of Bangladesh,’ she said.
The EU did not observe the last general elections on Jan 5, 2014 in which BNP and its allies did not participate.
She said they discussed the need for an independent and strong election commission in their meetings with different organisations.
She said an interim mechanism on the transition from one government to another was something that should be discussed as ahead of the elections as possible.
Other than the politicians, those in Bangladesh who have interest or have ideas can be part of the discussion, she said.
Answering to a question on Bangladesh’s internal politics, she said, they knew there were a lot of problems. ‘But it is somewhat necessary for people to feel that they are confident about their own democratic system.’
In a statement of European Parliament, the delegation also called for free and fair general elections in 2019.
They observed that stabilisation of the democratic structures in Bangladesh would be crucial for strengthening economic cooperation with the EU.
Bangladesh enjoys duty-free market access to all European countries.
On factory safety and workers rights, the delegation noted that a lot of progress had been made after the Rana Plaza building collapse but there was still much room for improvement.
The delegation also welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment for ‘further joint collaboration’ with the EU on better understanding the causes of radicalisation internationally.
This is because of the ‘important role’ Bangladesh plays in the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the statement said.
Source; New Age

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