Myanmar’s Aggression At Bangladesh Border Is Escalating Tensions In South And Southeast Asia – OpEd


Bangladesh’s territorial integrity and sovereignty have frequently been violated by Myanmar military actions outside Bangladesh’s borders. Five days after summoning the country’s envoy in Dhaka and delivering a protest memorandum over an earlier incident on August 28 in which two mortar shells were fired from within Myanmar’s border and landed within Bangladesh’s territory, the Myanmar security forces recently launched a series of ferocious attacks from fighter planes and helicopters within Bangladesh’s border in Bandarban. On September 3, Myanmar fired at least two mortar bombs at Bangladesh, breaking international law. Bangladeshi officials summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to Dhaka five days earlier to convey their outrage over Myanmar’s August 28 firing of two lethal bullets at the same location.  Amidst these, another shell from Myanmar arrived inside Bangladesh on Friday (September 09) afternoon. This is the third shot. The bullet fell in Tumbru Ghonarpara area of Ward No. 2 of Ghumdhum Union of Naikshyongchari in Bandarban. However, no casualty occurred in this incident.

Firing and clashes between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar security forces have been going on for a long time. Yesterday too, there was a massive clash inside Myanmar approximately three kilometers east-south opposite the border pillar 36 of BGB BOP’s Baishfandri in Ward No. 3 of Ghumdhum Union. Border residents heard hundreds of gunshots during the clash between the two sides. Even 20-25 mortar shell fire could be heard. Also, a few Daya helicopters were seen flying since 3 pm yesterday.

A 271.0-kilometer (168.4 mile) border between Bangladesh and Myanmar is still in place. It runs from the tripoint with India in the north to the Bay of Bengal in the south. Geographically, the border region is heavily forested, making monitoring difficult.

The hinterland was historically a contentious region on the periphery of several Indian and Burmese empires. In 1948, Myanmar became a sovereign nation. After a struggle, Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan in 1971, inheriting the border with Burma/Myanmar.

Since then, the border region has experienced repeated instability as a result of violent conflicts like the Rohingya issue in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the Chittagong Hill Tracts insurgency (1977–1997) in south-east Bangladesh. The former has been going on for years, but recently has gained steam. The Rohingya population in Myanmar has fled the most recent round of violence, flooding into Bangladesh.

Similar internal conflict is raging in Myanmar. Since 1948, when the country of Myanmar, then known as Burma, gained independence from the United Kingdom, it has been plagued by insurrections. The conflict has primarily been of an ethnic nature, with numerous insurgent groups fighting the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, for their right to self-determination. Various armed factions continue to call for independence, more autonomy, or federalization despite numerous ceasefires and the creation of autonomous self-administered zones in 2008. The struggle has been going on for more than 70 years, making it the longest-running civil conflict in history.

conflict. The Arakan conflict stands out among these clashes. The Arakan Army (AA), which claims to support self-determination for the multiethnic Arakanese population, the preservation and promotion of the Arakan people’s national identity and cultural heritage, as well as the “national dignity” and best interests of the Arakan people, is constantly at odds with the Myanmar Military regime. The Arakan League’s (AL) military wing is known as the Arakan Army (AA) (ULA).

The Arakan Army and forces from Myanmar are engaged in devastating clashes. According to accounts, 19 police officers were killed in Maungdoo, a town in Myanmar’s Rakhine province, not far from the Bangladeshi border. Following the Arakan Army’s takeover of a police checkpoint in Maungdoo and the assassination of a police officer, Myanmar’s military has started airstrikes in Rakhine.

According to the Myanmar junta, troops are moving toward Maungdu to recapture a border patrol checkpoint. The quantity of soldiers and ammunition on hand has increased as a result of this operation. The earth shook as a result of the jet and helicopter shelling, according to the local residents. Several persons temporarily lost their hearing as a result of the explosion’s intensity.

What does Bangladesh have to do with any of this? Bangladesh and Myanmar share a border, and historically, during crises, many refugees have fled to Bangladesh in search of protection. Bangladesh, a country with a high population density, welcomed many Rohingya refugees for humanitarian reasons.

Additionally, a large number of Arakanese people temporarily relocated to avoid conflict. In actuality, the Bangladeshi government welcomed refugees in accordance with the UN’s mandate and did not discriminate against them. Bangladesh worked closely with the UN Human Rights Council as well (UNHRC). All of this was acceptable to Bangladesh, but when soldiers from Myanmar repeatedly crossed its border, the nation’s defensive strength became a top concern.

Bangladesh’s territorial claims have already been violated by Myanmar military

There are other instances like this than recent ones. Looking back, we can see that the Myanmar government has often, both intentionally and unintentionally, violated Bangladesh’s territorial claims.

Let’s examine a few historical instances. Three occasions between August 27 and 28, 2017, and September 1, 2017, helicopters from Myanmar violated the airspace of Bangladesh near Ukhiya. The Bangladeshi government has harshly rebuked Myanmar helicopters for repeatedly invading its airspace. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic message to the Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka on Friday in which it denounced the ongoing violation.

Bangladesh asked Myanmar to act quickly to stop future intrusions of this nature. Barely two weeks later, Myanmar again breached the airspace, despite all of Bangladesh’s complaints.

According to a ministry news release, on September 10, 12, and 14 more drones and helicopters from Myanmar violated Bangladeshi airspace. On Friday night, the ministry called the chargé d’affaires of the Myanmar embassy, Aung Myint, to express its displeasure over the repeated violations of airspace. Director General of the South East Asia Wing of the Foreign Ministry Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury met with Myint and gave him a note of protest. Bangladesh has warned that these aggressive tactics would have unexpected consequences in the protest notice.

Let’s examine different instances where the Myanmar military violated Bangladesh’s territorial integrity and border. Despite the government of Myanmar’s assertion that all of these occurrences were unintentional. 

Four members of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP), as they are known, wandered into Bangladeshi territory in the vicinity of Teknaf in February 2018. On Monday, the armed border guards—among whom one was believed to be an officer—were found near the riverside border of Unchiprang. They were picked up and transported to their Unchiprang station by BGB patrol men. An outpost flag meeting was held on Monday at around five o’clock. The BGP troops and their equipment were handed over to Myanmar after they admitted their error. Similar occurrences occurred the following year.

Such incidents haven’t yet stopped occurring in 2022, but they have instead become more frequent, as shown by the audacity with which Myanmar’s military used explosive weapons on Bangladeshi soil.In the early hours of Saturday, September 3, Myanmar security forces attacked heavily from fighter jets and helicopters in Bandarban, close to the Bangladeshi border. Around 9:20 a.m., helicopters and aircraft in the Ghumdhum district began firing shells and gunfire. The incident, according to Bandarban’s Superintendent of Police (SP), Tariqul Islam, has put law enforcement on high alert. Two aircraft and helicopters reportedly patrolled the Myanmar border between BGB-BOP border pillars 40 and 41 in the Tumbru district of Ghumdhum, according to police and locals. The aircraft are currently firing 8 to 10 rounds, of which two fell 120 meters inside Bangladesh.

In addition, some 30 rounds were seen being fired by the helicopters

Locals claim that BGP-2 Tambru Right Camp in Myanmar fired at least four rounds of heavy shells on Saturday morning between border pillars No. 34 and 35 in Naikhongchari. Additionally, shooting was reported from Tambru Right Camp and Muringajhiri Camp in Myanmar. On August 28, the Border Guard Police (BGP) of Myanmar fired mortar shells at the border near Naikhongchhari, Bandarban. The Rohingyas and villagers were filled with fear when three mortar rounds were swiftly launched from the opposing side. Additionally, sources claim that Myanmar’s military has started patrolling the border area with powerful weapons. Also seen on Sunday were Maynmar soldiers stationed in bunkers close to the border, with powerful weapons (4 September).

Seeing soldiers patrolling in groups inside Myanmar at the Ghumdhum Konarpara border zero-point fence, the Rohingyas who remained at the zero-point, particularly the inhabitants of the Ghumdhum-Tumbru border, were overcome with terror.

All of Myanmar’s actions clearly violate international law and standards, and Bangladesh is within its rights to take decisive action to safeguard its territorial integrity. International law states that when a State engages in activity that could endanger and disrupt peace or engage in an act of aggression against other States, there is a threat of a military assault on that State. Every State in international relations is prohibited from threatening or using military force against another State’s territorial integrity or national independence or in any other way that is incompatible with the goals of the United Nations, in accordance with the UN Charter’s provisions and the rule of international law.

The territorial concept, which guarantees states the “right to integrity or inviolability,” is first brought up by A. W. Heffter. In UN member states, it became customary. According to the UN Charter, “All Members should refrain from using or threatening to use force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

The United Nations Charter, namely Article 2, Paragraph 4, enshrines the idea of territorial integrity as a fundamental tenet of international law. As old as the sovereign State itself is the idea of territorial integrity, if not the phrase itself. It is a fundamental right that comes with sovereignty and independence. Its primary relevance is in the area of international law governing the use of force. The territorial integrity of States was only very loosely safeguarded by international law prior to the advent of the general prohibition on the use of force in the first half of the 20th century.

Following the Second World War, the United Nations Charter of 1945 set a general ban on using force, with the exception of situations where it has been approved by the Security Council, subject to the inalienable right of self-defense.

All of the aforementioned rules show that Bangladesh might protest Myanmar’s wrongdoings at the UN, seek redress and compensation, and get assurances that Myanmar wouldn’t purposefully threaten Bangladesh’s territorial integrity. In addition, Bangladesh has a strong and imposing military that has undergone fast modernization thanks to the excellent governance of the government. Bangladesh’s military is equipped to protect the nation’s territorial integrity if given the go-ahead. We are convinced that Bangladesh’s capable and effective government, which has enhanced Bangladesh’s presence in the world over the past ten years, will take the necessary countermeasures against such occurrences and foster calm along the border to protect the safety of its citizens.

Dr. Arpita Hazarika

Dr. Arpita Hazarika is a Gauhati University, Assam, India based researcher. She is very interested in refugee affairs, political economy, security and strategic affairs, foreign policies of the Asia-Pacific region. She has visited a number of countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, UK, USA, France, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Canada. She has research works on India-Bangladesh affairs.

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