Myanmar firings along Bangladesh border widen
Firings along Bangladesh-Myanmar border became wider by Tuesday — stretching for about seven kilometres from Naikhyangchhari in Bandarban to Ukhyia in Cox’s Bazar, causing fresh tensions among civilians.
As firings continued along border, Bangladesh on the day briefed diplomats from different countries outside the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the border situation.
Sounds of firings and shelling continued to be heard from Ghumdhum, Tambru and Baishphari in Naikhyangchhari since the middle of August while mortar shells landed a couple of times inside Bangladesh border between August 28 and September 16.
But on Tuesday, sounds of heavy firings were heard along the Palangkhali border in Ukhyia of Cox’s Bazar district. Witnesses said that firing sounds started at the north end of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border and sounds were gradually moving in the south direction.
Acting foreign secretary Md Khurshed Alam briefed the non-ASEAN foreign diplomats and heads of missions at state guest house Padma in Dhaka, seeking support from their countries, including the USA, the UK, India and China, over the developing situation as Myanmar’s military actions went on along border, causing damage to life and properties and putting several thousand Bangladeshi border people at risk.
The diplomats assured Dhaka of conveying its concerns to their respective capitals.
‘We told them [diplomats] that Myanmar should not be allowed to destabilise the region and create obstacles to Rohingya repatriation. We do not want to give them any scope to make any excuse for not repatriating Rohingya people from Bangladesh,’ Khurshed Alam told reporters after briefing the non-ASEAN diplomats, who were apprised of the situation along Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
While briefing, Dhaka asked the diplomats to take actions so that mortar shells and bullets from Myanmar did not enter Bangladesh anymore.
After the fresh firings were heard along the Palangkhali border on Tuesday morning, the Ukhia authorities were documenting the names and other particulars of civilian families residing along the border segment.
Ukhyia upazila nirbahi officer Imran Hossain Sajib said that following the sounds of firings and mortar shelling between 9:00am and 10:00am the authorities started collecting information about the vulnerable families so that they could be relocated to safer places from the border areas concerned in case of any emergency.
Palangkhali union parishad chair Gafur Chowdhury said that they were trying to convince people not to panic.
Border Guard Bangladesh personnel continued patrolling along the border and strategic points.
Meanwhile, residents at Tambru said that they had heard sounds of firings along international border. Locals said that heavy artillery firing sounds caused panic in the area.
After sporadic firings and shelling along border and the killing of a Rohingya youth on September 16, Bandarban district officials met with the local elected representatives and visited a number of local primary schools with the intention that if the situation deteriorated the locals would have to be moved to safety.
The United League of Arakan in a statement on September 17 said, ‘We [ULA/ Arakan Army] hereby condemned in the strongest possible terms, such acts of atrocities,–indiscriminate shelling and bombardment of civilian and convey our deepest condolences to the bereaved families of the victims of the Myanmar Military’s atrocities.’
The non- ASEAN envoys briefed on Tuesday appreciated the Bangladesh initiative for keeping them informed of the developments in bordering areas of Bangladesh and assured of conveying Bangladesh’s concerns to their respective capitals, said a release issued by the foreign ministry.
The envoys sought clarifications on different aspects of the evolving situation in bordering areas over the past few days, the release added.
The acting foreign secretary urged the diplomats to take actions so that Myanmar’s internal conflicts do not create any pressure on Bangladeshis and do not cause instability in the region as well.
The envoys took note of Bangladesh’s worries and assured that they would duly convey those to their respective capitals.
Khurshed Alam informed the diplomats of the maximum restraints that Bangladesh was observing in the face of repeated provocations from Myanmar.
Responding to a question, the acting secretary said that the Myanmar side always made claims that the mortar shells that landed in Bangladesh were fired by Myanmar’s internal rebel groups — the Arakan Army and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
On Sunday, Dhaka lodged a strong protest with Naypyidaw by summoning Myanmar ambassador to Bangladesh Aung Kyaw Moe for the fourth time since August 21 over ‘the intrusion of mortar shells, aerial firings and airspace violations from Myanmar causing death and injuries to the people inside Bangladesh territory’.