Myanmar mustn’t underestimate military capability of Bangladesh
By: Sufian Siddique
Bangladesh doesn’t lack defence capabilities, but it wants no war, says home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal amid cross-border shelling. He also said Bangladesh does not want war with Myanmar or any other country, but its military is always ready to respond to provocation.
The home minister held a high-level meeting with the chiefs of the armed forces, Border Guard Bangladesh and Coast Guard, and top officials of the law-enforcement agencies and the foreign ministry on Wednesday after Dhaka bolstered diplomatic efforts to settle the current incursions at the border with Myanmar.
‘We have seen a number of provocations. We think Bangladesh has no role to play as long as there is an internal conflict where the Arakan Army is fighting with [Myanmar armed forces].’
Bangladesh Army chief General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed, in a separate programme on Wednesday, said that his personnel were ready to respond to Myanmar if it was required.
Shafiuddin said that he had already sent his Myanmar counterpart a strong message amid continued mortar shelling, firing, and flying jets and drones that killed one Rohingya and injured others in the Bandarban district.
‘We are ready to respond if it is needed. That’s for sure. I am in contact with all my stakeholder’ General Shafiuddin said, speaking at the programme at Dhaka Cantonment.
As Myanmar forces are fighting rebels along the border, shells have landed in Bangladesh a number of times recently. Myanmar planes and helicopters also violated Bangladesh’s airspace.
A Rohingya teenager sheltering in a strip of land between Bangladesh and Myanmar died in the explosion of a shell while a Bangladeshi man lost a leg in a landmine blast.
Residents of the areas along the border in Bandarban said they were in panic with no improvement in the situation despite calls by Bangladesh for calm.
In January and February last year, the Myanmar Armed Forces launched two attacks in Arakan State. But the result was not good. 19 soldiers of the Myanmar army were killed by the Arakan forces. The Myanmar forces were forced to retreat after being chased. Myanmar also fired two mortar shells along the Thai border. The Thai government has not responded but is monitoring the matter.
A few days ago, Myanmar fired mortar shells on the Bangladesh border. Bangladesh government protested strongly on two occasions. Let’s talk about Arakan. AA is an insurgent group based in Rakhine State (Arakan). Established on 10 April 2009, the AA is the military wing of the United League of Arakan (ULA). It is currently led by Commander in Chief Major General Toan Marat Naing and Vice Deputy Commander Brigadier General Neo Toan Aung. In the Kachin conflict, the AA fought alongside the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) against the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces).
Most AA soldiers were originally trained at the KIA Military Academy. Since 2014, AA has established its own training camp in Rakhine state. According to Myanmar Peace Monitor, the AA had more than 1,500 troops in 2014, including personnel stationed in Rakhine state near Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh.
Irrawaddy said in September 2015 that the civilian wing of the AA has more than 2,500 soldiers and 10,000 personnel. In January 2020, the AA chief claimed that the group had more than 30,000 soldiers. 14 The Arakan Army (AA) was formed on 10 April 2009 with its political wing, the United League of Arakan (ULA). It describes Kachin State as the ‘temporary headquarters’ of Laizai.
After training the young Arakan Army troops on 11 December 2011, the group planned to return to Arakan State and fight for self-determination. However, the outbreak of war in Kachin State in June 2011 rendered them incapacitated. As a result, with the support of the KIA, they took up arms against the Myanmar army. In 2014, AA launched another operation in Rakhine state near the Bangladesh border and another near the Thai-Myanmar border. As a result it has become much stronger and its combat capabilities have been positively affected.
In February 2015, the AA fought the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), an ethnic armed group, and its ally, the Taeng National Liberation Army (TNLA), in their clash with the Myanmar Army. Hundreds of Tatmadaw soldiers are reported to have been killed in the clash. On August 27, 2015, clashes broke out between the AA and the Bangladesh Border Guard Force.
Both sides exchanged fire near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in Bara Modak area of Thanchi in Bandarban district. On August 20, 2015, the Arakan Army Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) clashed. Ten of their horses were then seized by the BGB.
The Arakan Army ostensibly advocates self-determination for the multi-ethnic Arakanese population, the protection and promotion of the national identity and cultural heritage of the Arakan people, and the ‘national dignity’ and best interests of the Arakan people. In an interview with Arakha Media (AKK) conducted in August 2021, the Commander-in-Chief of the Arakan Army clearly stated that the political objective of the armed revolution is to restore the sovereignty of Arakan. There has been no bargaining and there won’t be in the future. This is about Arakan
Myanmar is an unstable country. There have been repeated military coups. Democracy has been blocked. The image of the military junta’s seizure of power has been written on Myanmar’s chest again and again. The history of persecution of minorities is also old in Myanmar. Since 1990, several countries including China, Russia and Ukraine started providing military support to Myanmar. China sells huge number of weapons to Myanmar to keep India under pressure.
“Stockholm International Peace Research Institute” and “Global Firepower.com” sources say that the size of the Myanmar army is 516,000, including 46,000 regular and 1,10,000 reserve soldiers. In addition, Myanmar has a total of 264 military aircraft including 127 warplanes, 86 helicopters including 9 attack helicopters, 886 sophisticated tanks, 4 thousand 212 different types of missiles, 1 thousand 200 armored military vehicles, at least 200 missiles in air defense, 392 gun systems, 1200 anti-tank weapons, A total of 155 warships including 27 naval frigates, 40 patrol craft.
Bangladesh spends billions of dollars on defense each year. Currently, Bangladesh is pursuing “Forces Goal 2030” with the aim of modernization of its armed forces. Bangladesh has expanded one cantonment, acquired submarines, and an air base in Cox’s Bazar under construction
Since the 1990s, Myanmar has focused on arms procurement. Even after signing the disarmament agreement, they have not stopped buying arms. On the contrary, it has become easier for Myanmar to buy weapons since 2012. In the meantime, Russia, China, Israel, Ukraine, India, Belarus, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland and other countries have sold a large number of weapons to them.
China has already given Myanmar the most cooperation in the purchase of military equipment. They have sold the most warplanes, warships and ammunition to Myanmar. Russia and Ukraine are not far behind. Russia sold land-launched missiles to Myanmar. Ukraine has sold warships. On the other hand, Israel has sold tanks and armored personnel carriers. Al Jazeera published a news about it.
According to their data, Myanmar bought the most aircrafts from China 120, Russia 64 and Poland 35. Russia (2971), China (1029) and Belarus (102) sold the most missiles to Myanmar. China (21), India (3) and the former Yugoslavia (3) have sold naval warships to Myanmar. China (125), Serbia (120) and Russia (100) sold various types of ammunition, artillery. Armored vehicles and tanks were sold by China (696), Israel (120) and Ukraine (50).
Although Myanmar has a radical attitude, its military tactics are of poor quality. The power base is also weak. Many say Myanmar is playing war games. Wants to participate in this game with Bangladesh. But Bangladesh is a peaceful country. Bangladesh does not want to engage in war with any country. Bangladesh policy is to maintain friendship with everyone. Therefore, it is not right to think of Bangladesh as weak. Bangladesh armed forces are now world class. Bangladesh’s infantry is so advanced that it is one of the top nations in the world. It would be extremely foolish for Myanmar to think that the armed forces of Bangladesh are weak.
The writer is independent researcher and freelance columnist, Dhaka