Bangladesh wants to send back Myanmar army, BGP members by air

Myanmar's BGP members fled their country and took refuge at Ghumdhum border outpost of BGBFile photo

A total of 264 members of neighbouring Myanmar Army, Border Guard Police (BGP), police, immigration and other agencies have taken refuge in Bangladesh to escape the ongoing conflict with the insurgent group, Arakan Army, in Rakhine state of the country.

Myanmar has officially offered to take them back through the waterways of the Naf river. But Bangladesh wants to send them back to Myanmar through alternative routes as a fierce fight is going on between the two sides in the Rakhine state.

The government and diplomatic sources on Tuesday afternoon told Prothom Alo that Bangladesh seeks to make an alternative proposal to the neighbouring country to send back its citizens by air instead of river route.

A discussion is likely to be held in Naypyidaw, the administrative capital of Myanmar, on Wednesday.

Fighting between the Myanmar government forces and the rebel groups has intensified in the Myanmar-Bangladesh border areas for several days. A mortar shell fired from across the border landed in Ghumdhum of Naikhongchhari upazila of Bandarban on Monday that killed two in Bangladesh territory.

Following this, the Bangladesh foreign ministry summoned Myanmar ambassador Aung Kyaw Moe to protest this incident Tuesday morning. In a protest letter, handed over to him at that time, it is said that no fighter jets of the Myanmar Air Force should enter the Bangladesh airspace.

He was also told that Bangladesh will not accept any more displaced persons from the Rakhine state. Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Myanmar Wing) Miah Md Mainul Kabir handed over the protest letter to the Myanmar ambassador.

Later in the afternoon that day, foreign minister Hasan Mahmud told newspersons at his office that  the incident of Myanmar citizens entering Bangladesh and the death of a Bangladeshi national from the ammunition fired from across the border due to the country’s internal conflict is unwarranted.

Bangladesh summoned the Myanmar ambassador and lodged a protest in this regard, he informed the media.

The foreign ministry said in a notification that Myanmar’s ambassador was summoned and the Myanmar government has been urged to take action to stop any unacceptable activities that cause loss of lives or damage to property in Bangladesh territory.

The Myanmar Air Force conducts regular operations very close to the border and they were alerted not to violate the Bangladesh airspace.

Naypyidaw talks on Wednesday

Bangladesh ambassador to Naypyidaw Md Monowar Hossain is scheduled to hold talks with Myanmar deputy prime minister and foreign minister Than Swe in Naypyidaw to to send back 264 members of the country’s various agencies including Border Guard Police (BGP), police and immigration.

Monowar Hossain told Prothom Alo on Tuesday night, “I talked to the Myanmar deputy foreign minister over mobile phone on Monday morning and asked for a courtesy call to deputy prime minister and foreign minister Than Swe to talk about the immediate solution to the expected events arisen in the Bangladesh border because of ongoing fighting in the Rakhine state, as well as to send back those who fled to Bangladesh. The meeting will be held on Wednesday.”

Diplomatic sources in Dhaka said Myanmar proposed to take back the people who took shelter in Bangladesh by water vehicles from Teknaf of Cox’s Bazar to Maungdaw of Rakhine and Bangladesh authorities will hand them over to Myanmar at the midpoint of both countries’ maritime boundary.

According to government sources, fighting has intensified between the Myanmar troops and the Arakan Army in the Rakhine state. The insurgent armed group has so far taken control of 3 out of 10 battalions in Rakhine, forcing at least 750 members of BGP to leave the border outpost and take shelter in a safe place.

Several officials said Myanmar wants to take back their people via the maritime route. Still, Bangladesh deems it risky because people from Myanmar are increasingly leaving their border outposts and fleeing to Bangladesh. So, it will be better to send them via airways instead of taking the route in the Naf River, and Bangladesh will propose it to Myanmar.