Bangladesh rejects Myanmar's Rohingya resettlement claim
Dhaka: Bangladesh has rejected a Myanmar claim that the Buddhist-majority nation had repatriated the first five among some 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees who fled to escape military-led violence.
A Myanmar government statement said on Saturday that five members of a family had returned to western Rakhine state from the border area.
It said the family was staying temporarily with relatives in Maungdaw town, the administrative centre close to the border.
The statement said authorities determined whether they had lived in Myanmar and provided them with a national verification card. The card is a form of ID, but does not mean citizenship - something Rohingya have been denied in Myanmar, where they've faced persecution for decades.
The statement did not say whether any more repatriations were being planned. Bangladesh has given Myanmar a list of more than 8000 refugees to begin the repatriations, but there have been delays due to a complicated verification process.
On Monday, Bangladesh's home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, said Myanmar's claim that the family had been "repatriated" was false, noting that the family had never reached Bangladeshi territory.
Khan said Myanmar's move was "nothing but a farce."
"I hope Myanmar will take all the Rohingya families back within the shortest possible time," he said.
Bangladesh's refugee, relief and repatriation commissioner, Abul Kalam, said the Rohingya family involved had never crossed the border.
"By no definition can this be called repatriation. No repatriation has taken place," he said. "Bangladesh is no way part of it."
Myanmar's security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of the homes of Rohingya villagers after insurgents attacked about 30 police outposts on August 25.
The United Nations and the United States have described the army crackdown as "ethnic cleansing".
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed in December to begin repatriating Rohingya in January, but there were concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that they would be forced to return and face unsafe conditions in Myanmar.