Trade with Myanmar through Teknaf port halted

Myanmar Rakhine state on the other side of Naf RiverProthom Alo file photo

Exports and imports with Myanmar through Teknaf land port in Cox’s Bazar came to a halt as road and waterways communication remains snapped between Sittwe (erstwhile Akyab), capital of the Myanmar state of Rakhine, and Mongu township via Buchidong-Rachidong area following the intermittent firing and shelling near Mongu town over the past eight days. No cargo ship carrying goods from Sittwe also arrived in Teknf port since 3 March either.

Myanmar armed insurgent group Arakan Army have engaged in clashes with the Myanmar government forces over taking control and retrieving the border outposts in the Rakhine states over the past month. Recently, the insurgent group took control of various police outposts and areas near Sittwe, as well as closed the main roadway and waterway between Sittwe (erstwhile Akyab), capital of the Myanmar state of Rakhine, and Mongu township via Buchidong-Rachidong area.

Teknaf pourashava panel mayor Mujibur Rahman said the sound of 30-35 mortar shell explosions was heard in the south of Mongdu township in Keariprang and Perangproo villages between Wednesday evening and early Thursday, and that shook Jaliapara, Chowdhurypara, Kulalpara and Dailpara areas of the Teknaf municipality.

Bangladesh and Myanmar opened bilateral trade on 5 September 1995 in a bid to prevent smuggling at the border.

Various goods like frozen fish including rui, carp, hilsa and other sea fish, timber, pickles, dried fish, beetle nut, coconuts, onions, beans, ginger, rice, dried chillies, watermelon, mangos and turmeric are imported from Myanmar while potatoes, plastic products, garment products, T-shirts, soft drinks, hair, chips, chanachur, biscuits, tubewell, cement and various pharmaceutical products are exported from Bangladesh.

Imports from Myanmar dropped since the first week of November 2023 due to the prevailing dollar crunch coupled with the conflict in the Rakhine state. No goods were exported from Bangladesh to Myanmar between the first week of January this year and 5 March.

Trade stopped

Trade with Sittwe remained stopped through Teknaf land port due to the ongoing clash on the Myanmar side of the border. No cargo ship carrying imported goods from the Sittwe port arrived in Teknaf between 3 March and 7 March.

Teknaf land port operating firm United Land Port Teknaf Limited general manager Md Jasim Uddin Chowdhury said the border trade has stopped amid the ongoing fight in the Rakhine state.

Teknaf Land Port Importers and Exporters’ Association general secretary Ehtashamul Haque Bahadur said Bangladeshi traders have purchased large amounts of various goods including frozen foods, gingers, beads and onions in Sittwe ahead of Ramadan, but shipment of goods to Teknaf port becomes impossible as the situation deteriorates in Sittwe. Ships carrying goods leave Sittwe, sail through the Bay of Bengal and then cross the Naf river before anchoring in Teknaf. Border trade also came to a standstill following the closure of the direct communication between Sittwe and Mongdu.

Traders said 20-25 ships and trawlers carrying timbers, frozen foods, dried fish, pickles, rice, lentils, ginger chillies, coconut and onions from Myanmar anchored at the Teknaf port daily one and a half months ago. Border trade took a hit after the Rakhine conflict intensified on 2 February with the daily number of ships arriving at Teknaf dropping to 3-4. However, he added that no ships arrived over the past five days.

During a spot visit on Thursday afternoon, no ship was seen at the jetty of the Teknaf landport. Trucks were seen being loaded with goods, mostly timbers, gingers, dried fish and coconuts that arrived five-six days ago. Previously, 1,000 workers were involved in the loading and unloading of goods at the port. Currently, 50 labourers work only.

Worker Sharif Hossain said he runs his eight-member family by working at the port. If the arrival of goods remains stopped at the Teknaf port for a few more days due to the conflict, workers will have to starve, he added.

Land port customs (duty) super BM Abdullah Al Masum said the government lost more than Tk 30 million a day from the revenue due to the halt in the border trade.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna