Bangladeshi border guards have secretly begun forcing Rohingya refugees back into Myanmar where the Muslim ethnic group faces systematic persecution, with at least four groups sent back without the consent of Myanmese authorities in the past three months. Border security sources said the deportations began in February, after an international scandal over the treatment of the Rohingya erupted. The South China Morning Post revealed in January how the Thai military repeatedly towed batches of Rohingya boatpeople out to sea in unpowered vessels and cast them adrift. Hundreds died as a result. The apparent Bangladeshi change in policy came after attention was turned on Myanmar's hardline stance against the Rohingya, with the regime refusing to accept official repatriations or even admit that the Rohingya are Myanmese. Myanmar has also begun construction of a fence on the border with Bangladesh - which Bangladeshi officials suspect is intended to prevent Rohingya who have fled from being sent back. The Rohingya have long fled persecution and economic hardship in Myanmar by escaping to Bangladesh. Many subsequently board boats and head for Southeast Asia in search of jobs and refuge. 'On February 9, 26 Rohingya men were intercepted by our guards as soon as they landed in the Bangladeshi port town Teknaf, which they reached by a boat,' an officer with the Bangladesh Rifles border guards, posted near Teknaf, said. 'The same night the men were pushed back to Myanmar by boat across the Naf River [which divides the two countries].' The officer was confirming reports of unofficial deportations which recently emerged in Bangladeshi media. He said another group of fourteen Rohingya men were sent back on April 4. Then, in the first week of this month, 65 men, women and children from a dozen or so families were forced back in two batches across the Naf River. Some of the Rohingya men said they were seeking work in Bangladesh, while those in the family group said they were escaping persecution by Myanmese forces, the Bangladesh Rifles officer said. Moinul Hossain, a police officer in Teknaf, also confirmed the returns had been taking place, administered by the Bangladesh Rifles, which is an arm of the security services. 'All security forces in Myanmar are communally biased and they are anti-Muslim, the men and women alleged,' he said. 'They said their houses had been set on fire by [Myanmese border guard] forces, so they had to flee.' Local media have reported in Bangladesh that border prisons are swollen with Rohingya. Under official policies, Rohingya who are caught sneaking into Bangladesh are jailed for six months before being sent back to Myanmar - but because Myanmar is now refusing to accept returnees, many remain. Hamid Hossain, a Rohingya who has written a thesis on the ethnic group and their migration patterns and lives in a UN-backed camp in Cox's Bazar, said Bangladeshi authorities had revived the old practice of pushing back Rohingyas to Myanmar after a gap of five or six years. 'For many years, Bangladesh and others in the international community have been asking Myanmar to arrange a quicker repatriation of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh. But Myanmar has kept ignoring this humanitarian appeal, occasionally hinting that ethnically and in other terms Rohingyas could not be a part of Myanmar,' he said. 'Myanmar's indifference to the issue of repatriation has perhaps forced Bangladeshi authorities to revive the push-back process.' A month after Bangladeshi authorities pushed back the first group of Rohingya men in February and the incident was reported in local media, Myanmese authorities began construction of a fence along the 65km border with Bangladesh. Myanmese diplomats in Dhaka said the fence was meant to prevent cross-border smuggling, but Bangladeshi officials believe the fence is actually intended to prevent Rohingyas being sent back to Myanmar. Two local police officers also said they believed this was the case.