Bangladeshi authorities are planning to send back 31 bodies of Burmese citizens found dead on the beach of Bangladesh’s Teknaf Township, which borders Burma.
Dibakor Serdous, head officer of the Teknaf Township Police, said they were able to confirm that the bodies were those of Burmese nationals because they found Burmese currency and recognized the clothing style as Arakanese.
“We found over 100,000 kyat [Burmese currency, equivalent to US$108] on them,” he told The Irrawaddy. “The clothes they wear are similar to those of Arakanese who live in our country. That’s why we can say they are Burmese citizens.”
“Those bodies were found in the south of Sabodiya [Shin Ma Phyu] Island, in Teknaf Township, on Wednesday, May 15, by fishing boats,” said Nodul, of Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Forces Intelligence. “And they informed the authorities.”
“The BGB [Border Guard Bangladesh] and coast guard troops retrieved the bodies after they were informed,” Nodul added.
The commander of BGB No. 42, based in Teknaf, has informed the Burma’s border security force, Nasaka, of its intention to transfer the bodies but had not yet received any reply. A Teknaf police official cited Burma authorities’ preoccupation with preparing for Cyclone Mahasen as the likely reason for the delay.
Bangladeshi authorities suspect that the dead bodies are those of Rohingya Muslim refugees who tried to flee Arakan State’s low-lying coast by boat on Monday, ahead of Mahasen’s landfall on Thursday.
“They could be those who are disappeared in the boat sinking in Arakan State. We think they are them,” Dibakor Serdous said.
On Monday, one of ten boats taking refugees from Ngat Chaung refugee camp in Pauktaw Township, Arakan State, sank near the state capital of Sittwe. The state-run New Light of Myanmar said more than 50 people went missing from the capsized vessel.
While Dibakor Serdous referred to the deceased as “Burmese citizens,” if they are in fact from the capsized boat, their repatriation may prove problematic. Burma’s government does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic minority and refuses to grant them citizenship, saying most illegal Bengali immigrants.
Among the bodies found in Teknaf, 11 were children, six were women and the rest were men.
Dibakor Serdous said authorities wanted the bodies sent back to their respective families and were awaiting a response from Nasaka in the aftermath of Mahasen.
“We want to send them back. But as everyone is busy with Cyclone Mahasen, we cannot find fault with Burmese authorities,” he said. “We are just waiting to see the government’s decision. If they say bury them here, we will have to do so. If they say send them to Burma, we will send them.”