Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to visit Bangladesh early next month to visit the Rohingyas and witness firsthand the effects of the displacement of nearly 700,000 members of the Muslim minority from Myanmar.
Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, Bob Rae, is scheduled to join Freeland in Bangladesh, where she plans to attend the Organization of Islamic Co-operation meeting of foreign ministers on May 5 and 6, reports Canadian daily The Globe and Mail.Although the trip is still in the planning stages, senior government officials confirmed that Freeland will not visit neighbouring Myanmar.
Freeland is aiming to visit a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh during her visit, the official said.
John Kirton, a University of Toronto international-relations professor and expert on the Group of Seven, said Freeland has made the Rohingya crisis one of her personal foreign-policy priorities.
He said he was not surprised to hear that the minister would not be visiting Myanmar, since the optics of meeting with the country’s military – which led the crackdown on Rohingya in Rakhine state – would not be good.
“It would be difficult to go there and not go to the local areas, where the Rohingya still live, and there you would be totally controlled by the Myanmar military. So it would be either a sanitized … version of what you’d see, and you would be implicitly condoning the Myanmar generals’ side of the story,” Prof. Kirton said.
News of the minister’s expected trip comes after Rae, a former Ontario premier and Liberal MP, published a report on the Rohingya crisis earlier this month.The report called on Canada to lead an international effort to investigate “clear evidence” that crimes against humanity were committed against the minority group − a crisis Rae says bears the hallmarks of a genocide.