Dhaka: Bangladesh on Thursday stuck to its stand of preventing influx of Muslim Rohingya refugees from the troubled Rakhine state of neighbouring Myanmar, a day after US asked Dhaka to respect its international obligations.
"Our position on the Myanmar refugees remained unchanged," a foreign office spokesman said today.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland had yesterday said that Washington has urged Bangladesh "to respect its international obligations under the relevant refugee conventions and to continue its longstanding policy of non-refoulement of refugees".
Bangladeshi security forces say that in the past four days, they have returned nearly 1,000 Rohingyas who tried to enter into their territory in 14 boats.
"But we handled the situation in a soft manner considering their debacle," paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) commander for the region Lieutenant Colonel Zahid Hossan said.
He added in most of the cases the detained people, who fled the Buddhist dominated state in small boats to evade sectarian violence "were given time to rest and were provided with food and medicine before they were sent back".
Bangladesh has refused to open its border to Rohingyas despite pressure from the United States, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and international rights groups.
Bangladeshi border and coastguard officials said they received reports from the other side of the frontier that intensified military vigil in Rakhine has eased the situation there and people who earlier fled their homes have started returning from their makeshift hideouts in forests.
"The Myanmar troops already controlled the situation and we have information that people (Rohingya) were returning their homes," Coast Guard Lieutenant Badiuzaman told a news agency over phone.
Some 260,000 Muslim refugees belonging to Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority group fled their country to take refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh amid reported repression by the then Myanmar junta in 1991.
The Myanmar authorities agreed to take back its nationals under a UNHCR brokered agreement in mid-1992 though some of the refugees repatriated on earlier occasions had sneaked back into Bangladesh.
But the repatriation process virtually remained stalled for years reportedly for apparent reluctance on the part of the Myanmar authorities, causing protracted refuge of several thousand Rohingyas while their number multiplied in subsequent years.
Bangladesh still hosts 25,000 documented Myanmar refugees and their 4,000 children in Cox`s Bazar district, but undocumented number of Myanmar nationals who have fled into Bangladesh since 1991 is estimated to be as high as half a million.
Myanmar`s present tensions were inflamed last month when a Buddhist girl was murdered and raped, allegedly by Rohingyas, 10 of them lynched by Buddhists on June 3.