U.S. Waves Off Reports on Bangladesh Pressure while Remaining Concerned about Yunus

Regarding recent press reports that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had alleged that a “white man” had offered her the ability to stay in power without any pressure if she allowed a foreign country to establish an airbase in the Bay of Bengal, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, “if it is in fact the United States, I’ll just say that they’re not accurate.”

Miller responded to a question from State Department correspondent Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey during a June 4 briefing.   Ansarey had called attention to PM Sheikh Hasina’s reported remarks during a ruling 14-party alliance meeting in Dhaka on May 23.  PM Hasina allegedly said, “The plot is still there. With a part of Bangladesh like East Timor [broken off from Indonesia], then Chittagong [Chittagong Hill Tracts], Myanmar will form a Christian state. A base will be built in the Bay of Bengal.”

She reportedly said there had been a conspiracy not to allow the election in Bangladesh earlier this year. “But the holding of the election would be allowed and I would face no difficulty in retaining power if I allowed them to build a base in the Bay of Bengal. It was a proposal from a white person,” said the Prime Minister.

“Is Sheikh Hasina shooting too many arrows towards the US as you are asking for free, fair, and credible elections and rule of law and anti-corruption?” Ansarey asked at the briefing.

In reply, Miller said, “I’m not exactly sure who those comments refer to, but if it is in fact the United States, I’ll just say that they’re not accurate.”

Ansarey also asked Miller about the continuing judicial harassment of Nobel laureate economist Dr. Muhammad Yunus, quoting the latter’s comment that he was “at the worst point of his cursed life.”


“We continue to closely monitor developments in the case against Dr. Yunus. We have expressed our concern that these cases may represent a misuse of Bangladesh’s labor laws to harass and intimidate Dr. Yunus,” responded the State Department spokesperson.

In a note of caution, Miller said, “We also worry that the perceived misuse of labor and anti-corruption laws could raise questions about rule of law and dissuade foreign direct investment.”

Miller added that the U.S. would continue to encourage the Bangladeshi government to ensure a fair and transparent legal process for Dr. Yunus as the appeals process continues.

On June 2, after appearing before a court in Dhaka, Dr. Yunus said, “For the first time, I had to stand in an iron-cage court dock … I’ll never forget this … It is a part of this cursed life.”

Ansarey also asked if the US would consider additional actions to show solidarity with the democracy-loving people of Bangladesh or if the sanctions already imposed against former army chief Aziz Ahmed and former police chief Benazir Ahmed were enough to hold the regime accountable after the January 7 election.

In response, Miller said he did not have any actions to preview.


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