Myanmar’s government has rejected claims by the Border Guard Bangladesh that hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been sent back to Myanmar.
A report of 340 Rohingya Muslims being sent back to Myanmar from Bangladesh this month was “not true,” Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar’s President’s Office, said in an interview Sunday.
“We checked with authorities concerned after seeing this story. The top levels didn’t know anything and then we asked security and border officials on the ground and learnt the event didn’t take place. That’s why we said this story was not true,” he said.
“It’s a highly sensitive issue between Bangladesh and Myanmar. If we have to accept people, the decision has to come from the Union government. And there are immigration procedures,” he went on to say.
“We have to make detail[ed] checks whether they are really from Myanmar. We can’t do it without [a] verification process. We won’t handle it lightly. And we’ll let the media know,” he went on to say, calling the story “unbalanced.”
BGB: 30 more Rohingyas sent back Monday
Imran Ullah Sarker, the commander and chief executive officer of the BBG’s Cox’s Bazar Battalion, stood by his statement last week that 340 Rohingya had recently been sent back to Myanmar.
In a statement Monday his office gave an updated tally of “432 Muslim Myanmar nationals” sent back thus far in April, including 30 returned to Myanmar on Monday from an operation in the Tombru and Betbunia areas east of Chittagong.
Sarker said Bangladesh shares 275 km (170.8 miles) of border with Myanmar, which has erected border fences along a 175 km- (108.7-mile) stretch. The remaining 100 km (62.1 miles) of the border is porous and in some places features tough terrain.
“The Rohingyas enter into Bangladesh through the porous portion of the border. The Myanmar border police do not stop them from entering to Bangladesh territory. So, the Rohingya infiltration has been on,” Sarker said.
The BGB battalion under his command had intensified surveillance along the porous portion of the border to stop flow of the Rohingyas.
“After the arrest of the illegal Myanmar nationals, we record personal data along with the photographs to register that they are the Myanmar nationals. Then we take them to up to 50 meters towards the border, and stand until they cross into Myanmar,” Sarker told BenarNews.
He said the Myanmar border police mainly remain posted at designated checkpoints. They either do not see or do not react to the cross border movement, according to Sarker.
Myanmar officials do not record the exit and entry of their nationals along the border with Bangladesh, he added.
Former diplomat: no option but to deny
Former Bangladeshi ambassador Ashfaqur Rahman, who was the administrative head in Cox’s Bazar in mid 1970s when the Rohingya influx started, said that since a military takeover of Myanmar in 1962, the country had been pushing the Rohingyas into Bangladesh, labelling them as “illegal Bengalees.”
“This is obvious that the Myanmar government would contradict on Rohingya reentry [from Bangladesh]. This is because the Rohingya issue is a very sensitive one in Burmese politics. No government in Myanmar will be interested in talking in favor of the Rohingyas, given the strong anti-Muslim sentiment among the majority Buddhists,” Rahman said.
He said the western powers want that democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi to solve the Rohingya problem.
“I personally think Suu Kyi would settle the problem in some ways, but she would take time. At this moment, the Myanmar President’s office has no option left other than denying the repatriation or reentry of the Rohingyas [because of] political sensitivity associated with it,” Rahman said.
“The Myanmar people have high hopes about Suu Kyi’s government. They are not likely to do anything that would anger the majority Buddhists,” he said.