Bangladesh puts border guards on alert after Myanmar shelling: official

Tensions flared up between the two neighbouring nations over the killing of a teenager in shelling by Myanmar

Staff Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 18 Sept 2022, 01:52 PM
Updated : 18 Sept 2022, 03:32 PM

Bangladesh tightened security on the border with Myanmar after tensions flared up between the two neighbouring nations over the killing of a Rohingya teen in shelling by Myanmar.

The government put the Border Guard Bangladesh and the Coast Guard on alert but has no immediate plan to deploy the army, according to acting Foreign Secretary Md Khurshed Alam, a retired rear admiral.

“The BGB and the Coast Guard have been ordered to stay vigilant and to send necessary reinforcements if required,” he told reporters after a high-level meeting on border security on Sunday.

“As of now, we have prioritised blocking any fresh refugee seeking to enter Bangladesh territory through sea or land borders,” he said.

Asked about military deployment, Alam said: “We have no immediate plan to deploy troops there.”

On Friday, a Rohin‌gya teenager died and several others were injured after mortar shells fired from Myanmar exploded in Bangladeshi territory amid the ongoing conflict between Myanmar's military and the Arakan Army, insurgents fighting for self-determination for ethnic minorities in the Rakhine state. A Bangladeshi man was also injured in a ‘mine’ explosion near the border in Bandarban's Ghumdhum.

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

‘DHAKA SEEKS TO RESOLVE TENSION'

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

Reports coming out of Myanmar suggest a full-blown armed conflict has broken out recently between the country’s military, officially known as Tatmadaw, and the Arakan Army, an insurgency group that has been seeking independence from Rakhine state, also home to over a million of Rohingya who has taken refuge in Bangladesh.

The armed struggle has been going on for the last three weeks and intensified recently after the rebels had killed 19 junta police officers and captured a police outpost in Maungdaw Township near the border. The insurgents reportedly seized firearms, ammunition and other equipment.

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

Alam, who is acting as the top bureaucrat of the foreign ministry since the incumbent foreign secretary, Masud Bin Momen, is travelling abroad, also said his ministry passed along the message to restrain themselves via the country’s envoy.

“We lodged strong protests saying we do not want a repeat of the incidents that had happened along the frontiers lately. We also informed the envoy that it’s up to the Myanmar authorities how they would like to handle the ongoing situation as it is likely to be an internal matter for Myanmar,” Alam said. “We don’t want their shells within our territory. It's Myanmar’s responsibility to make sure of that, not ours.”

“As a responsible neighbouring nation, Bangladesh seeks a peaceful resolution and we are following all diplomatic protocols and using all channels to come to a peaceful resolution so that Bangladesh can avoid further bloodshed.”

The government plans to brief the ambassadors of ASEAN nations in Dhaka, seeking their cooperation to defuse tension, Alam said.

Alam, however, believes the neighbouring countries can come to a bilateral resolution.

“It may take time. So we need to be patient. A resolution will come if we stick to our stance,” he said. Dhaka is yet to hear from the Myanmar authorities about their stance.

MYANMAR ENVOY SUMMONED AGAIN

Meanwhile, Bangladesh's foreign ministry summoned Myanmar's ambassador for the fourth time in less than a month to protest the heavy fighting along the border which caused casualties inside Bangladesh territory recently.

Ambassador U Aung Kyaw Mo met with the ministry officials on Sunday, with Nazmul Huda, director general of the ministry's Southeast Asia Division, presenting Dhaka's position on the issue.

The Myanmar ambassador was summoned to lodge protests on several occasions over mortar shells fired from across the border that landed in Bandarban last month.

DHAKA MAY TAKE THE ISSUE TO THE UN IF MYANMAR DOESN’T RELENT

On consecutive days, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan has reiterated that Dhaka would take the issue up with the United Nations, if necessary, to stop the conflict from spilling across the border.

“We are a peaceful and peace-loving nation, we do not want war. We want a peaceful resolution,” he said on Sunday at his office while briefing reporters.

“BGB lodged a strong protest, and so did the foreign ministry. The prime minister is aware of everything. If tension on the border continues, we’ll [Bangladesh government] raise the issue at the UN. We are doing our job,” Khan said.

“If we can’t make that happen ourselves, we’ll raise the issue with the United Nations and do everything necessary.”

Asked when the government might consider raising it with the UN, the minister said: “That’s up to the prime minister.”

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is currently on her way to New York to attend the 77th session of the UN General Assembly. She is scheduled to address the assembly on Sept 23.

PROVOCATION?

Obaidul Quader, the ruling Awami League’s general secretary, said the government was assessing whether the shelling incidents were “acts of provocation”.

He noted the Myanmar ambassador had earlier described the incidents as stray mortal shells landing in Bangladesh and promised steps against the recurrence of shelling.

“As the same thing has happened again, the foreign ministry is reviewing the matter in the light of international laws and protocols,” said Quader, also the road transport and bridges minister.

“Bangladesh is an independent and sovereign state. The Sheikh Hasina government considers every inch of this country as part of its own existence.”

Quader said Bangladesh, however, wants all the issues settled peacefully and the foreign ministry was working on it.

Prime Minister Hasina talked about the issue on Saturday in London, where she was attending Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, he added.

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Editor-in-Chief and Publisher