A fight has been going on between the Myanmar armed forces and Arakan Army, an armed rebel group, for nearly two months for establishing control in Rakhine State in the country. The Rakhine State is just on the other side of Bangladesh’s bordering districts of Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban.
Because of the armed fighting between the two sides, people in the bordering areas in Bangladesh have been living in constant panic. In this context the government has asked the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Coastguard to remain on high alert in the border area to ward off any impact of violence in Rakhine state. The government, however, is not thinking about deploying army in the border right now.
Acting foreign secretary Admiral (retd) Md. Khurshed Alam said this to the media on Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the day, he chaired a meeting with different intelligence agencies and departments concerned of the government at state guest house Padma about the Bangladesh-Myanmar border situation.
Khurshed Alam said the BGB and Coastguard have been asked to remain on high alert in the border area and to take effective measures, if necessary, by deploying additional forces.
Alongside mortar shells and grenades falling inside Bangladesh, the incidents of violating the airspace of the country have also occurred. This suggests the Myanmar Army is trying in some way to entangle Bangladesh in its fight against Arakan Army
He further said they were asked to remain alert so that no new Rohingya can enter Bangladesh crossing the border through land or river route. Earlier, some Bangladeshis were involved with the influx of Rohingya people to the country from Myanmar. All the agencies have been directed to take necessary actions so that nothing like that happens this time, he added.
Pressed on whether the government is thinking about deploying the army along the border, the acting foreign secretary said the government is not thinking about deploying the army right now.
Earlier, on Friday, a mortar shell fired from Myanmar fell at a Rohingya camp on zero line of the border near Tumbru in Naikhyangchhari upazila in Bandarban. A Rohingya teen, Md Iqbal, died and another five Rohingyas including a girl were injured in the incident.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) president Maj Gen (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman on Sunday evening said, “Myanmar is now lightly instigating tensions on the border. The fighting between Arakan Army and Myanmar Army is in many cases spilling over into Bangladesh. Alongside falling of mortar shells and grenades inside Bangladesh, the incidents of violating the airspace of the country have also occurred. This suggests the Myanmar Army is trying in some way to entangle Bangladesh in its fight against Arakan Army.”
Myanmar ambassador summoned for 4th time
The Bangladesh foreign ministry on Sunday summoned Myanmar ambassador to Dhaka, Aung Kyae Moe, over several incidents of shelling of Myanmar security forces along the border in the last few days. Acting DG of Myanmar Wing at the foreign ministry, Nazmul Huda, summoned the Myanmar ambassador in the morning.
This is for the fourth time the Myanmar envoy was summoned at the ministry in the last one month for the border incidents.
We have been doing what the procedure says about behaving with a neighbour. Our statement to Myanmar does not have any weakness or submissiveness. Rather, we talked maintaining a strong position
Speaking about this, the acting foreign secretary Khurshed Alam said Bangladesh foreign ministry lodged a strong protest against the firing of shells from Myanmar that exploded inside Bangladesh territory, causing human casualties, affecting the safety and security of the people and property inside Bangladesh territory and spreading panic among the residents of the bordering areas. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also handed over a protest note to the Myanmar ambassador.
The Myanmar ambassador was told that the government of Myanmar was responsible for maintaining the security inside Myanmar as well as for ensuring that no violation of the border and airspace with neighbouring Bangladesh took place. Bangladesh is a responsible and peace-loving country. Bangladesh has been tolerating the incidents patiently for long. The ambassador was also told that there should not be any damage to life and livelihood of the area’s people due to Myanmar’s internal conflict.
Myanmar ambassador was summoned earlier too. What’s the result? Responding to this question, Khurshed Alam said, “We have been doing what the procedure says about behaving with a neighbour. Our statement to Myanmar does not have any weakness or submissiveness. Rather, we talked maintaining a strong position. We have been trying to brief the ASEAN (10-strong Association of Southeast Asian Nations of which Myanmar is a member but not Bangladesh) member states in Dhaka so that we could say that Myanmar’s not taking any step even after being informed of the same situation for time and again is a sad instance as a neighbour. We don’t want any repetition of these.”
When he was asked about the Myanmar ambassador’s responses, the acting foreign secretary said the ambassador listened to everything and did not decline anything. There was no clear answer. He will inform Naypyidaw (Myanmar capital) so that effective action could be taken.
When Khurshed Alam was asked what Myanmar said after previous summons, he said, “Though ‘Myanmar Army’ was inscribed on the bullets, Myanmar said the Arakan Army fired those. They stole the army’s ammunitions. Myanmar said the Arakan Army is doing this to create a distance between Bangladesh and Myanmar.”
Pressed on about why the border situation is not changing even after summoning the Myanmar ambassador time and again, the acting foreign secretary said, “Efforts are being made to resolve the matter. Is the Rohingya crisis being resolved? There is no powerful country, no place, including the United Nations, where we did not go to and talk in the last five years. The problem has not been resolved. Could the UNHCR do anything? That’s why it will take time to resolve the bilateral issues, we must keep patience.”
* The report, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza