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Bangladesh rejects Myanmar border guard return offer

June 24, 2015

Bangladesh says will not accept 550 migrants without verifying nationality to secure release of detained border guard

London -- Bangladesh's government has rejected conditions reportedly set down by Myanmar for the release of a Bangladeshi Border Guard (BGB) officer detained last week.

Home Minister Assaduzzaman Khan Kamal told reporters Tuesday that Bangladesh will not accept 556 Malaysia-bound human trafficking victims intercepted by Myanmar without first verifying their nationalities, in order to secure the release of the officer.

While Myanmar claims that all of the trafficking victims are Bangladeshi citizens, Bangladesh wants to verify that none are Rohingya Muslims, a stateless group from Myanmar's western Rakhine state. Myanmar does not recognize the term Rohingya, preferring to use "Bengali" which suggests the Muslim ethnic group is from Bangladesh.

"We repeatedly told them we would not bring anyone back without 100 percent scrutiny," said Kamal, adding that by asking for Bangladesh to accept all the victims, Myanmar "went too far and were asking for too much."

He added, however, that he was hopeful a deal could be struck without the condition because Myanmar had agreed to treat the issues separately.

The BGB officer was detained last week after an incident along the border between the two countries, which saw another Bangladeshi officer shot in a "misunderstanding", according to local news website bdnews24.

Earlier in June, Bangladesh accepted almost 200 trafficking victims who it had verified as Bangladeshi citizens.

Myanmar has intercepted several human trafficking boats carrying both Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants headed to Southeast Asia, but has claimed that the majority are Bangladeshis.

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