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Bangladesh - Diplomatic - February 8, 2024

Panic across the border

Enayet Karim : One by one areas in Myanmar are being lost to the junta forces. Members of the country’s army, border guards, BGP, police and other agencies are largely helpless against the insurgent armed groups. Also yesterday, Arakan Army of Arakan State occupied a town named Minbia.
Two military battalions of the army also took control of the city. Through this, Minbia, a large city located in central Arakan, fell. Meanwhile, the tension caused by the ongoing conflict across the border is still prevailing in Bangladesh territory. The fear did not end among the people of the border area. However, due to some calm, 140 people from 28 families who took shelter at Ghumdhum Government Primary School in Bandarban started returning to their villages yesterday.
Meanwhile, sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh said that 329 people from various organizations including the army, BGP, police have fled to Bangladesh so far. Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has placed a high alert in the border area.
No new Rohingya to be given shelter
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said that there is no opportunity to show new sympathy to shelter the Rohingyas. BGB is in a tough position on the border. BGB Director General Major General Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman Siddiqui visited the border area yesterday and said that BGB is always active to deal with any situation arising at the border.
Meanwhile, he ordered the BGB members to perform their duties with the utmost professionalism to protect the sovereignty of the country and to be always active in dealing with any situation arising at the border.
According to a report of Thailand-based Myanmar local media Irrawaddy, the “Arakan Army” of Myanmar’s Arakan state has captured a city named Minbia. The Arakan Army took control of two military battalions in the city on Tuesday. Through this, Minbia, a large city located in central Arakan, fell. The Arakan Army has captured the headquarters of Junta’s ‘Light Infantry Battalion 379’ and ‘Light Infantry Battalion 541’. Before that, a war was going on between the two sides in the city for about a month. Dozens of soldiers and their family members surrendered to the rebels during the seizure of two military bases, local media reported, citing eyewitnesses in the city of Minbia. The junta sent warplanes and gunboats to save them, but the military was unable to retain control of the city. On January 28, the rebels captured the headquarters of the ‘Light Infantry Battalion 380’ as Minbia’s first military base. The junta deployed large numbers of troops to Minbia in January to hold the city. They were sent there by river. But they were defeated in an ambush by the Arakan Army. Rebels also seized large shipments of ammunition and food sent by the junta government in late January. In a last-ditch effort to defend their bases in Minbiya, junta forces bombarded several villages across the city and from the air, from land, sea and air. Rakhine media reported on Tuesday that Minbia is now a township free from junta rule.
The Arakan Army also said its troops captured the junta’s border guard base ‘Tang Pyo’ in Mangdu area on the Bangladesh border on Tuesday after three days of fighting. Since Sunday, the war has been going on for the occupation of Tang Po. At that time dozens of junta troops were forced to flee across the border into Bangladesh. Hundreds of junta members have fled to Bangladesh so far. Clashes were reported in the towns of Mrauk-U, Kyauktao, Ramree, An and Mybon in Rakhine state on Tuesday. The Arakan Army has captured two more junta bases in northern Rakhine in the past 10 days. Arakan Army is a member of ‘Brotherhood Alliance’. The alliance launched an anti-junta operation in northern Shan State on October 27 last year. As part of the operation, they captured most of Shan State. These include 20 cities and important trade routes with China. Under that operation, the Arakan Army launched a large-scale offensive across Rakhine State and Paletwain neighboring Chin State from November 13. So far, they have captured 170 outposts from the junta. Apart from this, they also occupied the big cities like Minbia, Paktao and Paletwa.
Meanwhile, 140 people from 28 families who took refuge in Ghumdhum Government Primary School have started returning to their villages as things calmed down a bit. Dhumdhum Union Parishad Chairman AKM Jahangir Aziz confirmed the matter yesterday. He said that the Ghumdhum border area has been normal for two days. No gunshots were heard. For the past few days, the locals were in panic due to the shelling across the border. Therefore, on the instructions of the district administration, we ask the residents of the villages near the border to go to shelters safely.
On the other hand, 63 people have fled to Bangladesh to save their lives in the ongoing conflict between the state junta forces and ethnic rebels inside Myanmar. Among them are members of the country’s border guarding force Border Guard Police (BGP), army personnel, police personnel, immigration personnel and civilians. Public relations officer of BGB headquarters yesterday. Shariful Islam confirmed this information and said that 63 more people have come. BGB has taken shelter of 327 members of BGP and other forces who have taken refuge in Bangladesh. Further action in this regard is under process. BGB Director General Major General Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman Siddiqui, in response to a question from journalists during the inspection of the Bangladesh-Myanmar border under the Cox’s Bazar region of BGB on Wednesday, said that the border situation is under the complete control of BGB. We are trying our best to deal with the situation by following the instructions of the Prime Minister, being patient, humane and maintaining good international relations. Irrespective of the circumstances, no one else will be allowed to enter Bangladesh illegally. He also expressed his conviction that BGB is ready to make the maximum sacrifice to deal with any situation arising on the border to protect the sovereignty of the motherland.
The diplomatic reporter said that there is endless discussion in the political and diplomatic arena about what Bangladesh’s ‘peaceful strategy’ should be in contrast to the sudden concern over border security. An inter-ministerial meeting was held in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday. Representatives of all important organs of the state were present in the meeting chaired by Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen.
After the meeting, the foreign secretary said that the only demand of Dhaka is that the spillover effect of Myanmar’s internal conflict and war should not reach Bangladesh. There are differing views on what Bangladesh should do about the Myanmar conflict. However, people of all opinions and paths agree on one thing that the multifaceted effects of this war will harm Bangladesh in the short and long term. There is a danger of Rohingya influx. security analyst Dr. M Sakhawat Hossain has been saying for a long time that a major geopolitical challenge is being created in front of Bangladesh based on the internal situation of Myanmar. According to him, Bangladesh’s future security and the Rohingya issue are not only dependent on China, but Dhaka has to think about communication and relationship building with the NUG (National Unity Government) and Arakan Army as well as their political organizations.
He thinks that what has happened and will happen in the Rakhine region will have an impact on Bangladesh. He mentioned in a recent article that about 12 to 1.5 million Rohingya refugees have taken refuge in Bangladesh as part of the ethnic cleansing process of the Myanmar government. He believes that the strong position of the Arakan Army in northern Rakhine has made Bangladesh face a new reality. The analyst said that there is no doubt that the Arakan Army and UAL will have a large influence in the Rakhine region in the future. The latest report by established media outlet Irrawaddy says the fighting Arakan Army has taken control of a town in northern Rakhine state. They have captured the base of the last two battalions of the Myanmar military in Minbiya. During this time dozens of members of the Myanmar army and their families surrendered to the Arakan Army.
Dissent on the return of army and border guards: 329 members of the country’s army, Border Guard Force (BGP) and various organizations have taken refuge in Bangladesh so far to escape the ongoing conflict with the insurgent group Arakan Army in the Rakhine State of Myanmar, Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen said. He gave this information after the inter-ministerial meeting. There is a difference of opinion between Dhaka and Napid about the way and method of returning those members. Myanmar wanted to take them back through Naf river. Bangladesh offered to send them back by air after considering the alternative scenario. But Myanmar did not agree to that proposal.
According to official sources, Bangladesh had offered to return the Myanmarese people who had taken refuge in Bandarban by air instead of the Naf river. But Myanmar does not want to return its citizens by air. This situation brought forward the issue of taking their dependents by sea to Myanmar. When asked how the people of Myanmar will be taken back through the Bay of Bengal, a senior official said that Myanmar Navy ships will enter Bangladesh waters and take back their citizens. Before this, the necessary procedures should be completed according to international norms. It is expected that Myanmar will take back their citizens within the next few days.
Meanwhile, after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen told reporters that how to return 329 citizens of Myanmar was our main topic of discussion. Bangladesh’s ambassador to Myanmar was involved in the discussion. He is meeting the Foreign Minister of Myanmar today. There he will reiterate his protest of border incidents. At the same time, you will want to know how to get back those who are here. The number of people who are here may increase. But we gave priority to sending them back by air. But we think they might discuss taking them back by sea. Our priority will be to repatriate these people in the safest and most expeditious manner possible.
When asked where the people of Myanmar are kept now, he said that they are now kept in two schools under the supervision of BGB. If the number increases, they will be taken to the interim camp. A large number of one battalion of the BGP, especially many including their lieutenant colonel, and half of another battalion have left. In all, the number may be five to six hundred. We estimate that another hundred members may come. When asked if anyone is getting any message that Bangladesh is leaning towards one of the conflicting parties, Masud Bin Momen said, “We are discussing with the Myanmar government at different levels. They have contact with us in Napid, Dhaka everywhere.
I see no room for misunderstanding at this moment. We want to make it clear to everyone that we don’t want Myanmar’s internal crisis to be borne by us. A lot of mortar shells are falling here in the conflict there, two people have died. We also want an end to the tension and fear spread on the border. We are in enough trouble already. Repatriation is disrupted. I don’t want to take Rohingya again. In response to the question whether the current situation in Rakhine has created a risk for Bangladesh, the foreign secretary said that he does not see any direct risk. If they are attacked by an aircraft or are likely to violate airspace. The Prime Minister said – patience is required. I will not do anything to make the situation worse. BGB has maximum preparedness so that the security of Bangladesh is not disturbed.

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