Bangladesh overnight intensified security vigil in its borders with Myanmar to prevent Rohingya influx afresh amid speculations about impacts of military takeover on the rest of the minority Rohingyas there.
“We have secured our border” as Myanmar military seized the state power two days ago, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told newsperson at his office.
He further said that Dhaka did not expect the situation in the eastern neighbouring country to intensify further the Rohingya crisis but “some of our friendly western countries fear that rest of the Rohingyas would flee to Bangladesh from Rakhine”.
Momen’s comments came as officials in southeastern Cox’s Bazar that borders Myanmar’s Rakhine state said paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has intensified patrols and vigils amid reports that Burmese security agencies were visibly activated on the other side of the border though the situation erupted no frontier tensions afresh.
Myanmar military seized the power detaining the country’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, toppling her government two days ago and declared an one-year state emergency as Bangladesh was spearheading a desperate campaign for safe return of some 1.1 million Rohingyas.
They had fled their homeland in Burma’s bordering Rakhine state amid a ruthless and brutal army clampdown on them and took makeshift refuge in Bangladesh’s bordering Cox’s Bazar district.
Masud said that Dhaka already contacted China and conveyed that it was ready to hold the scheduled next round tripartite talks in shortest possible time and wants to carry forward the roadmap
Momen said Dhaka wants to continue talks with Myanmar for “advancing the ongoing process to commence Rohingya repatriation” and “our discussion will continue with the Myanmar government, not with any individual”.
“We did the agreement (regarding repatriation) with the Myanmar government, not with any individual … (so) the (repatriation) process should be continued,” he said.
In an immediate reaction after the military takeover Dhaka issued a statement saying “as an immediate and friendly neighbour, we would like to see peace and stability in Myanmar,” said the statement simultaneously adding that Bangladesh firmly adheres to and promotes democratic ethos.
Asked about Dhaka’s specific stance over the changed scenario in Myanmar Momen on Wednesday said Dhaka does not either condemn or welcome the changed situation of Myanmar.
But, he said, Bangladesh hoped that democratic process and constitutional arrangements will be upheld in Myanmar.
Momen said Rohingya repatriation remained to be Dhaka’s top agenda in terms relations with Myanmar saying Bangladesh was persistent in developing mutually beneficial relations with Naypyidaw and working with Myanmar for their voluntary, safe and sustained repatriation.
“The border situation remains normal but we have enforced an extra security vigil to prevent any fresh Rohingya influx,” BGB’s 34 battalion’s commander lieutenant colonel Ali Haidar Azad told state-run news agency BSS.
Another BGB official at the frontier town of Cox’s Bazar said Bangladesh border guards were “kept alert” as “we will not allow any influx from Myanmar”.
Bangladesh currently hosts over 1.1 million Rohingyas, most of them arriving since 25 August 2017 after the military crackdown in Rakhine, which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” with “genocide intent” while rights groups described the atrocities “genocide”.
The military takeover drew mixed reactions among Rohingyas who took refuge in Bangladesh with one of their leaders Syedullah said “Suu Kyi cheated on the Rohingyas, yet she was better than the military junta”.
Another Rohingya representative Nur Hossain of Leda Camp said the nature avenged on Suu Kyi because of her attitude towards Rohingyas.
“We understand the international pressures on Myanmar army, if the pressure mounts they will be forced to take us back,” he said.
Rohingya leader at Kutupalang camp Saiful Islam said the “Burmese military forced us to flee our homes, but we are concerned as they took over the total control”.
“Suu Kyi had sided with the military, betraying us,” he said.
Momen said the people in Cox’s Bazar had extended shelter to persecuted Rohingyas but the reality suggests now they were not willing to receive any more of them.
He said other countries may now give them refuge. “We don’t want to take them (Rohingyas)”.
The minister said in previous such influxes repartitions took place in 1978 and 1992 under the Myanmar’s military government and “if that time they could do so, why not this time”.
On 19 January, the secretary-level tripartite meeting among Bangladesh, China and Myanmar decided to hold the next joint working group meeting on 4 February for advancing the discussion about commencing repatriation of Rohingyas.
But, the scheduled meeting is yet to be uncertain as Dhaka did not communicate with Myanmar officially after the coup with the minister saying “we were not able to contact with Myanmar as still their (Myanmar’s new authority) communication is shut down”.
Earlier, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told newspersons that Dhaka wants to hold tripartite working group meeting soon with Myanmar, mediating by China, over Rohingya repatriation if Naypyidaw fails to attend the scheduled talks amid their internal changed situation.
Masud said that Dhaka already contacted China and conveyed that it was ready to hold the scheduled next round tripartite talks in shortest possible time and wants to carry forward the roadmap.
The roadmap was chalked out with Myanmar during the last secretary level meeting to commence Rohingya repatriation while Dhaka earlier provided the neighbour biometric data of 830,000 Rohingyas while the Myanmar authority so far verified only 42,000 of them.
In last three years Myanmar, however, did not take back a single Rohingya while the attempts of repatriation failed twice due to trust deficit among the Rohingyas about their safety and security in the Rakhine state.