Myanmar’s delaying tactics blocking Rohingya return: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina

New York (Reuters) – Bangladesh’s leader accused neighboring Myanmar of finding new excuses to delay the return of more than 700,000 Rohingya who were forced across the border over the past year, and said in an interview late Tuesday that under no circumstance would the refugees remain permanently in her already crowded country.

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, center, speaks during a meeting at the U.N. regarding the Global Compact on Refugees during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018. From left are UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, and Hasina, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

“I already have 160 million people in my country,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, when asked whether Bangladesh would be willing to walk back its policy against permanent integration. “I can’t take any other burden. I can’t take it. My country cannot bear.”

Hasina was speaking to Reuters in New York, where she is attending the annual United Nations meeting of world leaders.

The prime minister, who faces a national election in December, said she does not want to pick a fight with Myanmar over the refugees.

Hasina has previously called on the international community to pressure Myanmar to implement the deal.

Rohingya fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after a bloody military campaign against the Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The two countries reached a deal in November to begin repatriation within two months, but it has not started, with stateless Rohingya still crossing the border into Bangladesh and the refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.

“They agree everything, but unfortunately they don’t act, that is the problem,” Hasina said of Myanmar. “Everything is set but … every time they try to find some new excuse,” she told Reuters.