The foreign ministry today protested Myanmar’s pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent comments calling Rohingyas of her country as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” saying the remark surprised Bangladesh.
“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,” the foreign office said in a statement.
It added: “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”.
The statement said the Myanmar government over the past decades accepted 236,599 “Myanmar refugees of Rohingya ethnicity” after their own process of verification and therefore there was “no question that these people had moved from Myanmar into Bangladesh”.
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 Myanmar Rohingyas took refuge in Bangladesh and of them Myanmar government 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.
It noted that both the Governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh are working on the repatriation of the residual Myanmar refugees with the support of UNHCR.
In addition to the above caseload of refugees, the statement said, an estimated 400,000-500,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar subsequently sneaked into Bangladesh.
“In numerous interactions at various levels, including during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Myanmar in December 2011, the Government of Myanmar has assured Bangladesh to take back these undocumented Myanmar nationals after verification of their origin,” the statement said.
It also said both Bangladesh and Myanmar were working closely to resolve this longstanding issue and to move forward in exploring the enormous potentials for bilateral cooperation.
Bangladesh, the statement said, noted with appreciation the recent decision of the Myanmar Government to review their 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,” it said.
The statement said Dhaka would remain engaged with Myanmar for a durable solution to this outstanding issue in the spirit of
“It is the sincere expectation of Bangladesh Government that all concerned will refrain from making statements that are
without any basis in fact,” it read.
Dhaka’s statement came three days after Suu Kyi during a media interaction in India questioned if the Rohingyas were true nationals of her country under law or sneaked in there from Bangladesh.
“Is there a lot of illegal crossing of the border (with Bangladesh) still going on? We have got to put a stop to it, otherwise there will never be an end to the problem,” she said during her maiden trip outside Myanmar since her release from captivity in 2010.
She added: “Bangladesh will say all these people have come from Burma (Myanmar) and the Burmese say all these people have come over from Bangladesh.”