The purpose of the US visa restriction was not to take a side in an election in Bangladesh, but to ensure or to support free, fair, and peaceful national elections.
US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller made this remark while replying to a question on Bangladesh in the regular press briefing of the state department on Monday.
On 24 May, the US secretary of state Antony J Blinken announced the new visa policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) (“3C”) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.
Four months after the announcement, Matthew Miller said in a statement on 22 September, “Today, the Department of State is taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.”
At the US state departments’ regular press briefing on Monday, Matthew Miller was asked, “Last week you announced that United States taking steps to impose visa restrictions under the visa policy on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for undermining the democratic elections in Bangladesh. Bangladesh ruling prime minister responded this decision by saying in case of any move to thwart elections from outside, indicating US, Bangladesh will also impose restriction on those who will take such initiative. And joining her, foreign minister has said US has given assurance that there will be no sanction before elections. So is that true, and what is your reaction on that?”
In reply, he said “I will say, as we have said previously, as we said when the Secretary announced this new policy in May, that this – the purpose was not to take – to take a side in an election in Bangladesh, but to ensure or to support free, fair, and peaceful national elections in Bangladesh. I will say that, as we noted when we announced these new visa restrictions on Friday (22 September), they include – they include both members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.”
The US state department spokesperson was also asked about the release of Khaleda Zia. “One more on Bangladesh main opposition party gave a 48-hours ultimatum to the government to release their party chairperson and allow her to go abroad for advanced medical treatment, as her medical condition is very serious, and she is under arrest and hospitalized, this 78-years-old former prime minister. So what is your stance on the releasing of the former prime minister?”
In reply Matthew Miller said, “I just don’t have any comment on that.”
Another person also forwarded a question saying, “The US ambassador in Bangladesh mentioned 24th September in Bangladesh of inclusion of media person on new visa restriction raised huge concern. Taking into account the imposition on media person, a former editor with credential of working with Western outlets expressed concern that such a move runs contrary to uphold freedom of press. Don’t you think this sanction, if applied to media, would undermine US call for stand for human rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of press?”
In reply, Matthew Miller said, “What we have said, and we have not announced because visa records are confidential – we have not announced the specific members or the specific individuals to which this will apply, but it made clear that they will apply to members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.”