Myanmar 'accidentally' fired shells into Bangladesh: Momen

The foreign minister says Bangladesh is taking a strong stand over the matter and is working to secure the border

Golam Mujtoba Dhrubo
Published : 21 Sept 2022, 10:11 AM
Updated : 21 Sept 2022, 10:11 AM

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen believes the recent incidents of cross-border shelling from Myanmar were 'accidental' and hopes that Naypyidaw will fulfill its promise to be more vigilant in the future.

Momen, who has accompanied Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New York for the UN General Assembly, also reiterated Bangladesh's 'strong' stance on preventing a fresh influx of Myanmar's marginalised Rohingya Muslim minority into the country at a media briefing on Tuesday.

Hasina also discussed the Rohingya crisis during a meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi earlier in the day.

During the briefing, Momen had a lively exchange with a journalist from a US-based Bangla weekly. Highlighting the casualties caused by the shelling in Bangladesh, the reporter asked if Dhaka would raise the issue with the UN and if the government should adopt a 'stronger stance'.

Momen countered by asking him for his opinion on what amounted to a 'strong' position and just as the reporter mentioned the army, the minister retorted: "Do you want to start a war?"

Reports coming out of Myanmar indicate a full-blown armed conflict has broken out between the country’s military, officially known as Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army, insurgents fighting for self-determination for ethnic minorities in Rakhine state, which is also the home of over a million Rohingya who have taken refuge in Bangladesh.

On Sept 16, a Rohingya teenager was killed and at least five others injured when a mortar fired from Myanmar hit a refugee settlement at the border's zero line. A Bangladeshi man was also injured in a ‘mine’ explosion near the border in Bandarban's Ghumdhum.

Describing the heavy fighting near the border as Myanmar's conflict, Momen said, "They have two groups and many of them are Rohingya. These people are staying in no-man's land. As a result, they've been caught in this conflict."

"The Bangladesh border is very uneven. Sometimes it is hard to understand the border and that's why they [Myanmar] said they're not targeting us. One or two shells have dropped into our territory but that happened by mistake."

Bangladesh has been harbouring over a million forcibly displaced Rohingya who fled their homeland in the face of a military crackdown in 2017.

Although the two countries signed an agreement for their repatriation, the process has failed to get off the ground, with international experts blaming Myanmar for the lack of action.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar army has been engaged in an armed struggle with insurgents for the last three weeks and the fighting intensified recently after the rebels killed 19 junta police officers and captured a police outpost in Maungdaw Township near the border.

On Aug 28, two mortar shells from the military-ruled country also landed in Bangladeshi territory, prompting Dhaka to summon the Myanmar envoy in Bangladesh to issue a statement condemning the action.

The border strikes have been keeping residents of the Bandarban frontiers on edge for several weeks.

Earlier this month, Myanmar military aircraft and helicopters also crossed the border into Bangladesh and opened fire.

Bangladesh has since moved to tighten security on the border. The government also summoned Myanmar's ambassador in Dhaka four times in less than a month to lodge protests over the incidents.

Myanmar blamed the Arakan Army and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Group for the incidents along the border.

It also expressed a willingness to work with Bangladesh to maintain tranquility along the border and stressed the significance of "full and reciprocal cooperation" in that regard.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher