Myanmar must deescalate tensions at the Bangladesh border
By: Sufian Siddique
Armed with powerful guns and ammunition, Myanmar soldiers have been patrolling along the barbed wire barriers close to the Bangladeshi border.
On Sunday, Maynmar soldiers were also spotted with heavy weapons stationed in bunkers close to the border (4 September).
As soldiers were spotted patrolling in groups inside Myanmar along the zero-point fence of the Ghumdhum Konarpara border, fear permeates among the Rohingyas who are residing at the zero-point, especially the locals of the Ghumdhum-Tumbru border.
“Near the zero-point, there are about 4,500 Rohingya residents. We are all not at peace. We live in fear every single day “said a Rohingya local.
On the Myanmar side of the border, near pillar 33-2, soldiers with powerful weaponry could be seen stationed in a bunker.
“Myanmar soldiers are firing more. We are terrified. Along the border, there are now more army personnel. Soldiers patrol throughout the day and night. On Sunday as well, hundreds of soldiers with rifles in hand patrolled the barbed wire boundary entering Myanmar. They don’t observe day or night and shoot whenever they choose “another local remarked.
According to locals, Myanmar military have been firing and shelling from helicopters near the border for a considerable amount of time.
The people of the bordering areas of Bangladesh are spending their days in fear due to repeated mortar shell blasts and gunfire inside Myanmar. Myanmar helicopters are also practicing in the airspace. Among them, the fear of Bangladeshis increased after two unexploded mortar shells flew from the side of Myanmar at Tumbru border in Bandarban. BGB said to be on high alert with increased patrolling.
Fighting between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army, a pro-independence armed group of the country, has been increasing for several days in Rakhine State, bordering Myanmar. The activity of jet fighters and helicopters of the country’s armed forces has increased inside Myanmar.
The houses of Bangladeshis on the border are shaking with the sound of explosions and gunfire there. Residents of Tumbru village of Ghumdhum union of Naikxyongchari upazila of Bandarban are spending their days in extreme fear. The people of that region do not go out of the house unless it is necessary.
Police administration and public representatives say that between 25 and 40 mortar shell explosions are heard inside the Myanmar border. The border people feel unsafe in this.
BGB is on alert in the border situation in Myanmar. Bangladesh has also strongly protested the incident of Myanmar mortar shells flying inside Bandarban.
According to a news release from the foreign ministry, on Saturday, September 3, two mortar shells fired from Maynmar landed within Bangladesh between border posts 40 and 41 in the early morning at Ghumdhum union of Naikhongchhari upazila.
Over Naikhongchhari upazila in Bandarban, at least four fighter aircraft from Myanmar are said to have entered Bangladeshi airspace the same day.
According to reports, on August 30, a Myanmar Army helicopter crossed the border with Bangladesh and fired several rounds towards the hills near Ghumdhum union in Bandarban’s Naikhongchari upazila.
On Sunday, September 4, the Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh, U Aung Kyaw Moe, was requested to meet with the Director General of Myanmar, Wing Mia Mainul Kabir, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ambassador was also informed at the meeting that such acts are a serious threat to the safety and security of Bangladesh’s peace-loving citizens, a breach of the bilateral border agreement, and inimical to good neighborly relations.
Additionally, Ambassador U Aung Kyaw Moe was admonished to prevent any trespassing by internally displaced Myanmar citizens coming from Rakhine.
Bangladesh as a neighboring country is more affected by any kind of aggressive attitude in Myanmar. Unfortunately, Bangladesh also could not adopt a strong policy against Myanmar’s junta. The country’s military policy makers have been playing a trick on Bangladesh for decades. As neighboring country, they do not uphold international norms and values. The Rohingya are stressed about the crisis whenever they make promises they break again at convenient times. They have not kept any promises on this issue so far. But Bangladesh has never taken a strict stand against these injustices. Rather, they have always maintained a normal relationship.Basically, Bangladesh wants a friendship and neighborly relations with Myanmar. But Myanmar doesn’t show same of positive attitude towards Bangladesh.
The mortar shells fired on Sunday are an example of Myanmar’s blatant disrespect for Bangladesh’s sovereignty, bilateral relations with Bangladesh and regional peace. The Myanmar government is yet to acknowledge the incident or clarify its position. Such disregard was also evident when Myanmar helicopters repeatedly violated Bangladeshi airspace in August and September 2017, to which the Bangladesh government strongly objected.
But the continuation of these incidents’ points to Myanmar’s ongoing violation of international law. Furthermore, it runs counter to friendly neighborly relations and may result in unexpected events that may be in the interest of not only Myanmar but also Bangladesh and other neighboring countries. An unstable Rakhine region threatens the safe and dignified return of the Rohingya population, and an unstable border threatens those living there. A stable and peaceful neighborhood is always desirable and indeed essential for any country. To protect the interests of both countries as well as the international community, the government of Bangladesh must protest to its colleagues in Myanmar and demand an explanation of the mortar shell attack.
Bangladesh can destabilize the entire region by supporting Myanmar’s rebel groups if it wants to. But Bangladesh does not support any kind of insurgency, provocation in the region as they believe in peaceful coexistence of every region. Myanmar must respect Bangladesh’s peaceful attitude, mentality and process. Myanmar must be aware that Bangladesh has a strong military, modern military supplies, the support of the international community and the opportunity to support Myanmar’s rebels.
Lately, Myanmar has been continuously violating the sovereignty of Bangladesh. It is very unexpected. No state has the right to violate the sovereignty of another state on its borders. This is a clear violation of international laws, norms, customs. The relations between the neighbors of the two countries must be taken into consideration by the Myanmar authorities. They must understand that there is no war on the border. It is the Arakan Army and their internal affairs. It has the right to do everything within its own jurisdiction. But it should be remembered that Bangladesh is a sovereign state. Intentional or unintentional border shelling cannot be accepted as an answer. Myanmar has no right to violate the jurisdiction of another state. Such an attitude is not acceptable in international circles. Myanmar must deescalate tensions at the Bangladesh border
The writer is independent researcher, independent journalist and can be emailed at [email protected]