ISSN 2330-717X

Myanmar Needs To Be Careful To Avoid Border Tensions With Bangladesh – OpEd

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The Myanmar Army has been fighting with the Arakan Army (AA) in Myanmar-Bangladesh border region.  To control the activities of AA, they are attacking with the support of fighter aircrafts and helicopters. Due to these fighting the security situation in Bangladesh Myanmar border is tense now. 

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On August 28, AA attacked border posts to avenge the killing of civilians by the army in Mrauk-U town. Myanmar army is retaliating this by carrying out attacks on AA positions in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states with artillery and air support. Hostilities between the Myanmar army and the AA escalated in recent weeks. Clashes near Ma Nin Thang village in Rathidong town on August 30 resulted in casualties on both sides. On August 31, 10 soldiers were killed during the fighting with AA near a village in Paletwa City of Chin state.

 On August 31, AA troops ambushed a police outpost in Maungdaw Township in northern Rakhine State, and seized firearms, ammunition and other military equipment.  19 policemen were killed in that attack.  Following the attack on the outpost and the killing of 19 police officers, Myanmar Army has reinforced its forces in the border area and is carrying out attacks with the help of fighter aircraft and helicopters. Myanmar Army is conducting operations against AA across the 16 km long border area from Tambru, Reju, Amtali, Baishphari, Tuingajhiri, Garjanbunia and Reju Para of Ghundhum Union.

On August 28, two fighter aircrafts and two helicopters patrolled along Bangladesh Myanmar border inside Myanmar between the borders pillar no 40 and 41 under Reju Amtali BOP of BGB in Ghundhum, Naikhonchori.  8 to 10 rounds were fired from fighter aircrafts and approximately 30 to 35 rounds from helicopters. At that time, two mortar shells landed along border pillar 40, approximately 120 meters inside the Bangladesh border. No one was injured as the mortar shells did not explode. 

On August 30, there was shelling and explosions along the border throughout the day, and a Myanmar helicopter fired several rounds in AA hideouts near the border. There is panic among the locals and the Rohingyas staying there in the wake of these shootings.

Apparent peace prevailed in Rakhine state after the Myanmar military took power in February 2021, Due to an unofficial ceasefire with the AA and the Myanmar army in November 2021.  Prior to this ceasefire thousands of people have died and more than 100,000 have been displaced in two years by the Myanmar military’s brutal fighting with A.A. To maintain cordial relations with AA, the military government removed the AA from the list of terrorist organizations and released many arrested for alleged involvement with the AA.  The AA utilized this opportunity and increased its strength and capabilities in Rakhine State which the military government could not accept. 

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By the end of the year, the Myanmar army established number of new checkpoints in some strategically important areas of Rakhine State, such as the town of Maungdaw on the border with Bangladesh and the town of Kyuktao, the main gateway to Paletoa in neighbouring Chin state. By deploying and increasing the number of troops in these areas Myanmar army curtailed the freedom of movement of the AA which they could not accept. In those checkpoints Myanmar army detains Rakhine youth suspected of training with AA. As a result, the relationship of the Myanmar army with AA deteriorated.

Clash with the Myanmar Army started again when AA launched an attack on Paletwa city and six border posts in Chin State. After that Myanmar army conducted regular attack in these areas supported by fighters and helicopters to dislodge and recapture those posts. Due to heavy fighting residents of those areas fled to Maungdaw and neighbouring Buthidang town. The AA claimed that they killed 10 soldiers during an encounter near Mayek Wa village in Paletwa on August 31. On September 1, several government troops were killed when AA ambushed a military convoy in the town of Ann, Rakhine State. The Army is now conducting counterattacks on AA positions with aircraft and helicopter gunship.

In this on-going situation, the Rohingyas of several nearby villages have been ordered to leave the area. A large number of troops are being deployed in Rohingya-majority areas of Maungdaw. It indicates that, there is a possibility of Rohingya infiltration into Bangladesh again. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Coast Guard have been put on high alert at the border. The BGB is monitoring the on-going conflict inside Myanmar and maintains a strict border presence to prevent any type of infiltration. 

Ambassador of Myanmar in Bangladesh was summoned three times in the last two weeks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to express Bangladesh’s deep concern at air strike, violation of air space and the firing of mortar shells landed inside Bangladesh. It was conveyed to the ambassador that as the closest neighbour these actions don’t reflect sign of friendship and Myanmar must end this. Bangladesh always believes in peaceful co-existence and has never interfered in the internal affairs of Myanmar. Due to the atrocities carried out by Myanmar in August 2017 Bangladesh has been sheltering the Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar for more than five years.  The Rohingya crisis is gradually becoming a threat to the security of Bangladesh and the region. Current provocations by Myanmar will destroy regional stability and peace which is not desired by anyone. 

After the military coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021, the protesters came out in the streets to end the military rule and restore democracy. The Myanmar military is currently facing attacks from resistance forces and ethnic armed groups across the country. In the post-coup conflict, more than 2,200 people have been killed, nearly 15,000 people have been arrested and 28,000 houses have been burned. The number of displaced people in the country has exceeded 100,000 due to the clashes between the junta and anti-military regime. Myanmar wants to provoke Bangladesh by violating the airspace of Bangladesh, in response Bangladesh continues to show tolerance and trying to solve it by following diplomatic norms. To bring peace and stability in Myanmar, regional countries should undertake effective measures to control the on-going civil war situation in Myanmar. In the interests of regional security, ASEAN, China, Russia, India and the United Nations should come forward to stop the internal conflict in Myanmar. Everyone should be careful so that Myanmar’s internal conflict does not pose threat to regional peace and stability.

Brig Gen (Retd) Hasan Md Shamsuddin, ndc, afwc, psc, MPhil, Researcher on Myanmar, Rohingya and ASEAN affairs.

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