DHAKA – Bangladesh on Sunday termed as “surprising” Myanmar’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s comments questioning the state of origin of her country’s Muslim Rohingya community.
“Historic evidence shows that people of Rohingya ethnicity have been living in the Rakhine state of Myanmar for centuries, whereas Bangladesh came into existence only in 1971,” a foreign office statement said.
Dhaka’s reaction came three days after Suu Kyi, in New Delhi, said there were quarrels about if the Rohingyas were “true citizens under law” or came over to Myanmar as migrants later from Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh will say all these people have come from Burma (Myanmar) and the Burmese say all these people have come over from Bangladesh,” Suu Kyi had told the media, visibly disappointing Dhaka.
“The (foreign) ministry wishes to express surprise at such comments since these are clearly at variance from the position of the Myanmar Government and the action taken by them to resolve the issue over the last several years,” said the statement issued by the foreign office.
The foreign office recalled that since Bangladesh’s emergence as an independent state on December 16, 1971, there had been occasional influxes of “Myanmar nationals of Rohingya ethnicity” from Myanmar to Bangladesh “due to internal situations in their homeland”.
It said the last such major influx took place in 1991-92 when 250,877 Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh and of them Myanmar took back 236,599 refugees through a tripartite agreement between Bangladesh, Myanmar and UNHCR “after verification of their antecedents as people of Myanmar origin”.
“The remaining Myanmar refugees, along with their offspring, are staying in two refugee camps in Bangladesh. A quarter of these residual refugees were verified and confirmed by the Myanmar Government as their nationals,” the statement said.
The refugees fled their country to take refuge in Bangladesh amid reported repression by the then Myanmar junta in 1991 while the exodus also took place on a massive scale in two subsequent phases while Dhaka estimated their number to be ranged between 400,000 and 500,000.
“In numerous interactions at various levels, including during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Myanmar in December 2011… Myanmar has assured Bangladesh to take back these undocumented (400,000 to 500,000) Myanmar nationals after verification of their origin,” the statement said.
The Rohingyas at the home in Buddhist majority Rakhine sate in western Myanmar were exposed to fresh difficulties with the outbreak of sectarian or communal violence that has left at least 180 people dead.
Dhaka, however, appreciated a recent Myanmar decision to review the citizenship laws to ensure inclusive nationality for all members of Myanmar society.
“Bangladesh also expects that this review will uphold accepted international standards in determining the nationality of all people living in Myanmar,” the foreign office statement said.
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