Dhaka, Apr 16 (PTI) Bangladesh today rejected as “farce” a claim by Myanmar that it has repatriated first five Rohingya Muslim refugees among around 700,000 who fled the Buddhist-majority country after a brutal crackdown by the military.

Myanmar yesterday said it had repatriated a family of five Rohingya refugees, who fled the country following the crackdown by the Myanmar Army in the Rakhine state, and that the five became the first to be processed in the newly-built reception centres on Saturday.

“It (the claim) is nothing but a farce,” Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said in a statement.

Myanmar’s Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye, who is overseeing the repatriation process, had said in a statement that as they (Rohingyas) were repatriated, Myanmar officials, including from immigration, had verified them and gave them the paperwork they needed.

He further said that the paperwork meant a verification form of ID, which does not mean citizenship, something Rohingyas have been denied in Myanmar, where they have faced persecution for decades.

The Myanmar minister, who visited Bangladesh last week, however, added that the “five family members who re-entered Myanmar the other day were people who stayed along the border line between Myanmar and Bangladesh”.

He, however, did not said that if any more repatriation were being planned immediately as Bangladesh had already given a list of more than 8,000 refugees for repatriation. But delays were attributed to a complicated verification process.

Photographs posted by Myanmar authorities showed a man, two women, a young girl and a boy receiving the ID cards and getting health checks.

But, Kamal said that the family had never reached Bangladeshi territory, adding “I hope Myanmar will take all the Rohingya families back within the shortest possible time.” Bangladesh Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner Abul Kalam said since the Rohingya family never crossed the border “by no definition can this be called repatriation”. Also media reports, quoting observers, said Myanmar’s claim was a public relations stunt.

During his tour to Bangladesh last week, Win said repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas would begin “very soon” as “we have overcome many difficulties”.

He was the first Myanmar representative to visit the makeshift crammed Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh after the latest exodus began in August last year.

Myanmar’s security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of the homes of Rohingyas following an attack on about police outposts by insurgents on August 25.

He also held meetings with Bangladesh Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali and the Home Minster which he described to be very fruitful in overcoming “many difficulties in the process of beginning the repatriation process of the Rohingyas”.

Win said he had discussed the repatriation issue with the UNHCR and the UNDP, an apparent shift from Myanmar’s earlier stance against their involvement in the process amid speculations over their intension.

Dhaka insisted that the international community must keep a sustained pressure on Myanmar for the safe repatriation and feared that the coming monsoon could witness outbreak of epidemics and disasters like landslides in the overcrowded Rohingya abode at its southeastern frontiers with Myanmar.

The UN had described the atrocities as a textbook example of “ethnic cleansing” while the rights groups called it genocide.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.