Relief as recurrence of gunshots decreases at Naikhongchhari, Ukhia

Presence of people at Betbuniya Bazar in Ghumdhum union increase after a few days. This photo is taken at around 9:45 am on 7 February in 2024Prothom Alo

The people of villages along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari upazila and Ukhia upazila’s Palangkhali in Cox’s Bazar passed the Tuesday night with some relief as the recurrent sound of gunshots decreased.

Though a few gunshots were heard, there was no heavy shelling from Tuesday night to 8:00 am on Wednesday. Despite fear common people were seen coming out of their homes in the morning.

A fierce fight took place between the Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP) and the rebel Arakan Army (AA) over control of Tumbru right camp and Dhekibunia border post across the border of Naikhongchhari and Ukhia from at around 3:00 am Sunday.

Upon taking over the control of Tumbru right camp from the BGP, Arakan Army stepped up the fighting to take control of Dhekibunia border post from around 11:00 pm Sunday.

Failing to fight the rebel group, 264 members of Myanmar Army, BGP, police, immigration and other agencies crossed the border to take shelter in Bangladesh.

Local people said they heard the Arakan Army has taken control of Dhekibunia border post Tuesday. That is why the sound of gunshots has subsided since Tuesday evening.

Fear and panic has gripped people in 13 bordering villages in Ghumdhum and Palangkhali since the fight broke out weeks ago. Now they are somewhat relieved as the sound of gunshots has died down significantly.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Touhidul Islam 42, from Ghumdhum union’s Mandal Para near Dhekibunia border post said his family members have been staying in a relatives house in Whaikhyang, Teknaf since Sunday. He said though there is a fear of death, he could not shift due to the cattle and other domesticated animals. He felt relieved as he heard a decreased number of gunshots from last night.

Most of the 50-60 shops at Betbuniya Bazar were seen open during a visit in the area at around 8:30 am today, Wednesday, with people seen gathering there. The number of buyers at vegetable shops was also increasing.

Only a few shops used to open for the last few days as a number of bullets and mortar rounds fired from the neighbouring country fell in the Bangladesh territory due to the clash between the Myanmar government forces and the rebel Arakan Army across the border.

The number of battery-run auto-rickshaws plying on Jolpaitoli-Tumbru road has also risen.

Bandarban deputy commissioner Shah Mujahid Uddin on Tuesday afternoon instructed the officials concerned to shift the people of bordering wards 1, 2 and 3 of Ghumdhum union to makeshift shelter centre at Uttar Ghumdhum Government Primary School.

A total of 137 people including women and children were seen taking shelter there at around 8:00 pm Tuesday.

Ghumdhum union parishad member Dil Mohammad Bhutto was serving food to them at the time of visit at the centre.

He said the union parishad made the arrangement of the food.

Asked about the fewer number of people at the centre, he said many people went to the houses of their relatives following the death of two people in mortar shells fired from Myanmar on Monday. Only a handful of males are staying at homes in the locality.

Chairman of Palangkhali union parishad in Ukhia upazila, M Gafur Uddin Chowdhury, said the sound of gunshots have died down since last (Tuesday) evening. But the people are still under fear. The past experiences of the people living in border areas are not good. A clash broke out between the two sides after 12 hours.

Gias Uddin, 60, from bordering Rahmater Bil in Ukhia told Prothom Alo that there are several rebel groups in Myanmar. They are divided into the Arakan Army, RSO and Al Yakin. He said they are suspecting that though the fight between Arakan Army and Myanmar government forces has ended, fighting has been going on between the rebellious groups for various reasons.

* The report, originally published in Prothom Alo Online, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza