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Dhaka has expressed surprise over Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's recent comments about Rohingyas in her country's Rakhine state terming them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
In a press statement yesterday, the foreign ministry said such comments were clearly inconsistent with the position of the Myanmar government, and the action taken by them to resolve the issue over the past several years.
Suu Kyi on November 13 in India described the recent violence in west Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims as a "huge international tragedy", saying illegal immigration from Bangladesh had to be stopped.
Giving a long historical background, the foreign ministry particularly mentioned that the Myanmar government had accepted 236,599 Myanmar refugees of Rohingya ethnicity after their own process of verification.
“There is, therefore, no question that these people had moved from Myanmar into Bangladesh.
“It is the sincere expectation of the Bangladesh government that all concerned will refrain from making statements that are without any basis in fact,” the statement said.
Bangladesh will remain engaged with Myanmar for a durable solution to this outstanding issue in the spirit of good neighbourliness, it added.
The foreign ministry also said historic evidence shows that people of Rohingya ethnicity have been living in the Rakhine state for centuries, whereas Bangladesh came into existence only in 1971.
Therefore, there was no reason to ascribe Bangladesh nationality to these people living in the Rakhine state long before 16th December 1971.
Subsequent to Bangladesh's emergence as an independent state, there had been occasional influxes of Myanmar nationals of Rohingya ethnicity from Myanmar to Bangladesh due to internal situations in their homeland, the statement read.
The last such major influx took place in 1991-92 when 250,877 Myanmar nationals of Rohingya ethnicity took refuge in Bangladesh.
Of these, the 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 offsprings, were staying in two refugee camps in Bangladesh.
A quarter of these residual refugees were verified and confirmed by the Myanmar government as their nationals.
In addition to the above caseload of refugees, a large number of Myanmar nationals, again of Rohingya ethnicity, had subsequently crossed the border and illegally entered Bangladesh.
In numerous interactions at various levels, including during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Myanmar in December 2011, the Myanmar government had assured Bangladesh to take back these undocumented Myanmar nationals after verification of their origin.
"Bangladesh has 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," the statement said.
Bangladesh also expects that this review would uphold accepted international standards in determining the nationality of all people living in Myanmar, it added.