Myanmar returns rescued migrants to Bangladesh

DHAKA (REUTERS) - Thirty-seven Bangladeshi migrants rescued from a boat at sea by Myanmar authorities were handed over to Bangladesh authorities on Friday.

"Bangladesh verified 37 Bangladeshi citizens and confirmed that they are the Bangladeshi nationals," said Lieutenant Colonel Saiful Alam Khandakar, the commanding officer of Border Guard Bangladesh at the port of Cox's Bazar.

Thousands of people, many of them Bangladeshi or Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar, have taken to the sea in recent months in dangerously crowded boats run by people-traffickers, heading south towards other southeast Asian countries.

The 37 were among 208 migrants whom the Myanmar navy said it rescued from a boat in the Bay of Bengal on May 21.

Myanmar announced at the time that nearly all the people found aboard were Bangladeshis seeking better economic prospects, rather than Rohingya, a group who complain of severe discrimination and mistreatment in Myanmar.

But people aboard the boat told Reuters last month many of the migrants had been Rohingya. On June 8, Bangladesh received another 150 Bangladeshis, rescued from the same boat, from Myanmar.

Myanmar said this month persecution of Rohingya was not the cause of the Southeast Asian migrant crisis, a day after the United States called on the country to give full rights to the minority to help end the exodus.

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