Bangladesh has expressed surprise over Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s comments about Rohingyas — calling them illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

The Foreign Ministry, Dhaka, said the Rohingya Muslims had been living in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine for centuries and that they could not be Bangladeshis as the country was founded only in 1971.

During her historic visit to India, Ms. Suu Kyi had, on November 13, described the recent violence in Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims as a “huge international tragedy”, but suggested that “illegal immigration from Bangladesh” had to be stopped.

Dhaka 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. Bangladesh has also mentioned that Myanmar had accepted 236,599 refugees of Rohingya ethnicity from Bangladesh after their own process of verification.

Sincere expectation

The foreign office statement also said it is the “sincere expectation” of Bangladesh that all concerned will refrain from making statements that are without any basis in fact. Dhaka also said it would remain engaged with Nay Pyi Daw for a durable solution to this outstanding issue in the spirit of good neighbourliness.

There had been occasional influxes of Myanmar nationals of Rohingya ethnicity from Myanmar to Bangladesh due to internal situations in Myanmar, 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, it said.

In many discussions at the official levels, including during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Myanmar in December 2011, the statement claimed, Nay Pyi Daw had assured Bangladesh to take back these undocumented Myanmar nationals after verification of their origin.

Bangladesh has also appreciated the recent decision of the Myanmar government to review their citizenship laws to ensure inclusive nationality for all members of Myanmar society.

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