The Bangladesh government on Sunday rejected comments by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi suggesting that stateless Muslim Rohingyas may be illegal Bangladeshi migrants.
Myanmar has been rocked by two outbreaks of fighting between Buddhists and Rohingyas since June that have left 180 people dead and more than 110,000 crammed into makeshift camps.
Suu Kyi said last week that illegal crossing of the shared border with Bangladesh had to be stopped “otherwise there will never be an end to the problem”.
The foreign ministry in Dhaka said the Rohingya Muslims have been living in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine for centuries and they could not be Bangladeshi as the country was only founded in 1971.
“The Ministry wishes to express surprise at such comments since these are clearly at variance from the position of the Myanmar Government,” it said in a statement.
“There is… no reason to ascribe Bangladesh nationality to these people,” it said, adding that since 1971 there had been influxes of Rohingya into Bangladesh from Myanmar due to “internal situations in their homeland”.
Suu Kyi has faced criticism for her muted response to the ethnic violence in Myanmar and the displacement of many Rohingyas, who are described by the United Nations as among the world’s most persecuted minorities.
Barack Obama will on Monday become the first US president to visit formerly isolated Myanmar, which has recently introduced major political reforms.