Fear grips border villages as shelling continues in Myanmar

By placing hands on her ears, Beola Khaun tries to save herself from the intolerable sound of firings in Rahmater Bill area in Palang Khali union in Ukhia upazila of Cox’s Bazar on 6 February, 2024.Prothom Alo

The villages along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban are now shrouded with fear amid relentless mortar shelling and gunshots on the other side of the border.

Beola Khatun, a sexagenarian woman of Rahmater Bill area in Palang Khali union in Ukhia upazila of Cox’s Bazar, was seen covering her ears with hands to save herself from the cacophony of firings during a spot visit on Tuesday afternoon.

This premises is only half a kilometre away from the Kumarkhali area in Myanmar where intense firings have been going on throughout the last five days. The elderly woman, along with other residents of the locality, found herself entrapped in the throes of war.

Dozens of border guards and army men of Myanmar crossed into Bangladesh through the area to save themselves amid the intense firings. It prompted the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to ramp up their security measures in the area, while there was also a crowd of enthusiastic locals and media personnel.

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During a conversation on the yard of Beola Khatun's residence, this correspondent had to literally shout to make the elderly women hear. She shared the horrors as there have been persistent cacophony of firings throughout the last five days.

Bullets pierced the metal roof of Beola Khatun's residence.
Prothom Alo

She recounted how bullets fired from the Myanmar side hit the roof of her residence and riddled the metal sheets around 10:00 am on Tuesday. It intensified her fear that the situation might take a turn for the worse anytime. The firing is so intense that even covering ears with pillows could not save her from the intolerable echoes.

In the face of escalating conflict in Myanmar, Beola Khatun has sent her daughter in-law and grandchildren to a relative’s place for shelter and contemplates following suit anytime.

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Around 500-yard away is the residence of Momtaj Begum. She was sitting on the home premises with two hands on her ears. In a conversation with Prothom Alo, she said they are going through an extreme fear due to firings on the other side of the border. The authorities should take them to safe shelters.

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Her neighbour Sanowara Begum shared a similar story and said they would have left the area much earlier had they been free of the worries of their cattle.

Asked about the issue, M Gafuruddin Chowdhury, chairman of Palang Khali union, agreed with the demand for evacuation. He said the locals are in panic as firings are taking place every now and then. Some residences are being damaged due to firing. Now, the people should be shifted to safer places.

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A fierce fight has been going on between the government forces and the rebel Arakan Army in Myanmar across the border. Local media have reported that the Arakan Army has snatched the control of Tumbru right camp and Dhekibunia border post from the BGP, Myanmar’s border guard.

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The two sides have been exchanging fire for the last few days. Earlier, a Bangladeshi woman and a Rohingya were killed as a mortar shell from Myanmar fell on Bangladesh territory Monday.