How Bangladesh repatriated over 300 BGP personnel to Myanmar

A total of 330 Myanmar nationals were sent home in two phases on Thursday

Cox’s Bazar Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 15 Feb 2024, 01:00 PM
Updated : 15 Feb 2024, 01:00 PM

Bangladesh has completed the repatriation of 330 Myanmar nationals, many of whom were members of their armed forces and border security, after they fled the war in Rakhine state.

Among the returnees were 302 members of the Border Guard Police (BGP), four family members of the border police, two army personnel, 18 immigration officials, and four civilians.

In the first phase, 165 people were taken by boat from the Navy’s jetty at Inani in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya to a Myanmar ship anchored in the deep sea from 11am to noon on Thursday after screening.

The remaining 165 were sent through the same process around 4 pm, said Md Shariful Islam, a spokesperson for the Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB).

The BGP had clashed with the Arakan Army armed rebel group across the border from Bandarban’s Naikhongchhari on the night of Feb 2, the BGB said. From Feb 4-7, 330 people, including BGP personnel, crossed the border seeking refuge from the conflict.

Armed personnel surrendered their weapons to the BGB.

According to the BGB, the Myanmar nationals were granted shelter in two schools in Cox's Bazar's Teknaf and Bandarban's Ghumdhum.

Afterwards, a special committee was formed to oversee their repatriation. The committee, consisting of officials from the BGB, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cox’s Bazar district administration, and the police, then negotiated their return with the Myanmar authorities.

Early on Thursday morning, the Myanmar nationals were taken to the Navy jetty at Inani under strict security.

Of the 330 who came, nine received treatment in hospitals. They were brought to Inani in ambulances and kept in temporary tents.

A little after 9am, a Coast Guard ship came to the ship with a five-member delegation from Myanmar.

The two countries then completed the written formalities and the 330 Myanmar nationals were officially handed over to the delegation around 11am.

A tourist ship then transferred the BGP members and their families to the waiting ship from the Myanmar Navy in two phases, first around noon and then at 4pm.

The Myanmar vessel then set off for the country’s capital, the BGB said.

The weapons and ammunition they entered Bangladesh with will not be returned for the time being, according to BGB officials.

Heavy security was in place for the handover, with personnel from the police, RAB, BGB, and Coast Guard in attendance.

BGB Director General Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman Siddiqui said that the 330 people who fled Myanmar had been given the utmost cooperation and assistance, and their injuries had been looked after.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed the Bangladesh border security force to control the border situation while remaining patient and maintaining international relations, he said.

The BGB is on maximum alert and no other people would be allowed to enter from Myanmar, including Rohingya, he added.

Myanmar Ambassador to Dhaka U Aung Kyaw Moe expressed his thanks to the BGB and the Bangladesh government, saying that the process has improved the sincere relationship between the two countries.

The border situation remained calm throughout Thursday. No sounds of gunfire or blasts were heard from Myanmar.

WHAT LED TO THE CONFLICT?

In 2021, the Myanmar military overthrew the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup. In late October 2023, three ethnic rebel groups in Myanmar joined forces to launch a coordinated offensive against the junta forces.

These groups are the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

These groups have engaged in armed conflict with the Myanmar military in the states of Shan, Rakhine, Chin and Kayah. The rebels have successfully taken over several important areas and army posts.

The Arakan Army, an armed force of a minority ethnic group in the western state of Rakhine, is fighting for greater autonomy for Rakhine.

The conflict between the army and insurgents has been spilling over and affecting communities across the border.

At the end of August and start of September 2022, there were incidents of shelling from Myanmar warplanes that crossed the border into Bangladesh. Helicopters also entered Bangladesh territory.

Over the last few weeks, residents in Tumbru border area in Bandarban's Naikhongchhari Upazila have been gripped by panic, with gunshots regularly ringing out from the Myanmar side.

Gunfire and mortar shells also reached Bangladeshi territory, hitting homes, and killing two people, including a woman.

Many people from border areas fled, seeking refuge in safer locations.

Dhaka then summoned the country’s ambassador to register its protest and express condemnation and concern over these incidents.