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Bangladesh 'takes back' Rohingyas

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

A Rohingya migrant in a police van in Thailand, 31/01
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma

Bangladesh has taken back 49 boatpeople allegedly pushed back into the sea by Thai authorities and rescued by Indian coastguards two months ago.

A senior Bangladeshi diplomat told the BBC that the Rohingyas were on their way to Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh.

Hundreds of migrants were rescued by Indian and Indonesian coastguards. Thai authorities deny mistreatment.

Bangladesh was given a list of 67 Rohingyas by Indian authorities. Dhaka said 49 were its citizens.

"These are our nationals and we are taking them back. They have already been received at the border by our officials," said Monimul Haque, first secretary at the Bangladesh High Commission in Calcutta.

'Torture'

Mr Haque flew to Port Blair in India's Andaman islands and took charge of the 49 Rohingyas last week.

They were flown to Calcutta on Saturday and sent across the border on Sunday through the Benapole checkpoint on the West Bengal-Bangladesh border.

Mr Haque said that since most were from Cox's Bazar in southern Bangladesh, they would be sent there.

Though the Thai authorities denied mistreating the Rohingyas, the migrants have recounted tales of torture by Thai defence forces.

"They would force us to remain in chest-deep water in an island we were confined to after arrest. If we moved our head, we would be severely beaten up," said Abu Mohammed, a young Rohingya.

"Allah has been kind and merciful to keep us alive but many of our friends were not so lucky," he told the BBC.

"The Thais stacked us like cattle on the boats after taking away the engines. We were then towed to the high sea and left to die. There were at least two fellows on top of me, the boats were so crowded," said Mohammed Atiq, another Rohingya.

The Rohingyas are originally from Burma but after fleeing that country to escape persecution, they have mostly settled in southern Bangladesh.

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