Myanmar on Friday sent another 37 people back to Bangladesh that it discovered last month on a people smuggling boat found abandoned off its shores.

U Saw Naing, a senior official at Rakhine State’s Maungdaw district immigration department, told The Myanmar Times that Bangladesh had consented to readmitting the migrants through the district's border crossing.

Bangladesh Battalion Commander Lt. Col Khandker Saiful Alam confirmed to bdnews24.com on Friday that the migrants had been taken from Ghumdhum, on the border with Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar, where they will be handed over to police and the civil administration.

Cox's Bazar is a town at the foot of Bangladesh, which is also home to many refugee camps housing Rohingya Muslims - many of whom have fled Myanmar.

The town is also the starting point for a people smuggling trade, which has seen around 7000 migrants, trapped at sea or dumped on Southeast Asian shores over the last months.

Saiful Alam told bdnews24 that once the 37 people had arrived in Cox's Bazar the local administration will subject them to immigration formalities and interrogation before handing them over to their families.

The move came one day after Muslims began fasting for the holy month of Ramadan.

Earlier this month, Myanmar returned an initial wave of people it identified as "Bangladeshis" after finding them May 21 on a boat carrying 208 migrants off Rakhine’s coast.

Bangladesh accepted 150 of them after checking their identities June 8, and the further 37 on additional confirmation on Friday.

Rakhine's executive secretary U Tin Maung Swe has said that another 13 people discovered on board the vessel will be sent to Bangladesh after additional checks.

He added that the "repatriation" of more than 500 other "Bangladeshis" found aboard a second boat might be delayed as it would take neighboring authorities some time to verify their identities and addresses.

"We have to repatriate them once the Bangladesh government gives the green light," he said.

On May 29, Myanmar's Ministry of Information claimed in a Facebook post that its navy had discovered 727 "Bengali" migrants -- including "74 women and 45 children" -- crammed on a fishing trawler.

Myanmar does not recognize the term Rohingya, preferring to use "Bengali" which suggests the Muslim ethnic group is from Bangladesh.

Since the discovery, nationalist protesters and Buddhist monks have taken to the streets in nine townships in Myanmar's impoverished Rakhine state - the home of most of the country's Rohingya - to protest the government’s decision to ”shelter“ the boat people.

“We are confused about what the government is going to do about these 700 Bengalis,” U Than Tun, a member of the Emergency Coordination Centre of Rakhine State, told the Times. 

“We want to know what their plan is. We’re concerned about our security now that these Bengalis are living so close to us.”

In an earlier protest in Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon, marchers carried signs reading “We are under attack by terrorist so-called boat people,” as they condemned the United Nations for pressuring Myanmar’s government to accept migrants. 

An unnamed senior official from Myanmar’s foreign ministry has since told the Times that just 187 of the 727 originally identified as "Bengali" had now been identified as such.

Immigration official U Saw Naing added Friday that they "were now were being held at a temporary shelter near Taung Pyo Lat Wae before they are sent back to their places of origin -- primarily Maungdaw and Myebon township in Rakhine state.

"Some [of those on the boat had] fled [overseas] and some were trafficked," he told the Times.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have left Myanmar attempting to reach Muslim majority Malaysia and Indonesia on crammed boats.

The journey has seen them joined by Bangladeshi migrants in Cox's Bazar who are determined to find employment in Malaysia.

On arriving in Thailand - the gateway to Malaysia - many have been held them at temporary camps by human traffickers who demand ransoms from their families back home.

If no ransom is paid, the refugees are often beaten and/or killed. 

The Rohingya have suffered systematic discrimination for decades, but their plight has ironically become worse since the reformist government of President Thein Sein came to power in 2011.

His political reforms have been accompanied by outbreaks of anti-Muslim rioting that first flared in Rakhine, leaving hundreds dead and more than 140,000 Rohingya confined to internal displacement camps.

In recent years, around 130,000 Rohingya have fled the country by sea, according to the United Nations.

Myanmar’s government has repeatedly denied that persecution of the Rohingya is the root cause of the current migrant crisis, and has instead pinned the blame on people traffickers.

Anadolu Agency