Myanmar wants war with Bangladesh, RAB chief says as border skirmishes resume

He says Hasina’s firm handling of matters has saved Bangladesh from starting a war with ‘provocative’ Myanmar

Gopalganj CorrespondentCox’s Bazar Correspondent & Teknaf Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 24 Feb 2024, 08:56 PM
Updated : 24 Feb 2024, 08:56 PM

Myanmar has long been provoking Bangladesh to go into a war with it, but Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s resolute stance has preventeda full-scale conflict, the chief of the Rapid Action Battalion has said.

RAB Director General Khurshid Alam made the comments at a programme in Gopalganj on Saturday amid a violent conflict between the Myanmar military and rebels of the Arakan Army along the Bangladesh border.

The conflict has affected Bangladesh directly, with at least two killed and many injured in shelling or gunfire at this side of the border.

Hundreds of personnel of the Myanmar armed forces have also fled to Bangladesh while many Rohingya have been denied entry as Bangladesh is already overburdened with more than 1 million refugees, including over 700,000 who were forced by a brutal military campaign in 2017.

“Myanmar is the main route of drug smuggling. It is being done in a planned way for a political reason now. Myanmar has long been seeking war with Bangladesh. They are provoking politically in many ways, including forcing the Rohingya into Bangladesh,” Khurshid said.

“The prime minister’s resolute stance has saved us from this [war]. The country will be ruined if we start a war now. The military junta government of Myanmar is at war with the Arakan Army. They are trying to make gains by creating trouble for us.”

CLASHES ALONG BORDER RESUME

Gunfire and explosions were heard again in parts of Myanmar near the Teknaf border in Cox’s Bazar after a three-day break amid the conflict between the Arakan Army and security forces.

Residents near the border on Shah Pori’s island said the sounds of fighting stopped around 8am after overnight clashes.

Residents of the border region of Teknaf’s Whykong Union say the sounds of gunfire were heard from 11:00am to 12:30pm on Friday.

Around 5pm, people on Shah Pori’s island heard the sounds of shelling from Myanmar near the east side of Jaliapara in Subrang Union.

Mohammad Ali, a member of Hnila Union Council, reported hearing intermittent gunfire and 12 to 15 mortar shell explosions in Boli Bazar and Kyet Yoe Pyin areas, across from Alikhali and Chowdhurypara of Hnila on Friday night. The sounds continued until 7:30am on Saturday.

He believes the Myanmar Army targeted the Arakan Army with a mortar shell attack in the area.

According to Abdul Gani, president of the local fishermen's association, sounds of gunfire and sporadic mortar shelling were heard from villages of Maungdaw town in Myanmar across the east side of the Naf River from 11pm on Friday to Saturday dawn.

Adnan Chowdhury, the Upazila executive officer or UNO, said the Border Guard Bangladesh and the Coast Guard have strengthened patrols along the Myanmar border.

Residents have been advised to remain vigilant amid the escalating conflict in Rakhine state.

RAB DETAINS 3 SMUGGLERS

The RAB has detained three individuals suspected of storing edible oil, flour, sugar, and garlic to smuggle into Myanmar from Cox's Bazar.

These items were confiscated during a raid in the city's Majherghat area late on Friday night, Lt Col HM Sajjad Hossain, chief of RAB-15 Cox’s Bazar Battalion, said in a statement to the media on Saturday.

The detainees are Abu Taher, 50, Md Taiyab,24, and Kabir Ahmad,53.

According to Sajjad, the RAB conducted a midnight raid near Khurushkul Bridge. They acted on a tip-off about people stockpiling food for smuggling into conflict-ridden Myanmar. When they arrived, 4-5 individuals tried to escape, but RAB caught three of them after a chase.

Later, based on their information, the elite force recovered 2.12 kiloliters of soybean oil, 850 kilogrammes of flour in 17 sacks, 750 kilogrammes of sugar in 15 sacks, and 480 kilogrammes of garlic in 12 sacks from a nearby residence, he said.

RAB stated that the estimated value of these seized food items is over Tk 600,000.

The ongoing conflict between the Arakan Army insurgent group and security forces in Myanmar's Rakhine State has left many areas cut off, causing a shortage of food because of disrupted supply chains.

Despite the ongoing conflict along the border, smuggling activities have intensified.

The gang members were smuggling food products into Myanmar through different sea points along the Cox's Bazar coast, said Sajjad.

He also mentioned that the detainees have been charged, and a case has been lodged against them at Cox's Bazar Sadar Police Station.