Bangladesh Army Watches As Myanmar Border Guard Fights Arakan Rebels Inside Bangladesh

The firing from Myanmar has escalated tensions between the neighbours, raising concerns of a new Rohingya exodus into Bangladesh as well as diminishing prospects of their repatriation into Myanmar.

Clashes between Myanmar’s army and rebels are sparking fears of a new Rohingya exodus into Bangladesh, where the government says it can no longer bear the burden.

Weeks of relentless cross-border gunfire and shelling by the Myanmar military, which experts say could be a way to push more Rohingya into Bangladesh.

“We are not able to sleep at night. There are constant sounds of firing guns. Sometimes there are explosions,” Yunus told Al Jazeera over the telephone.

The map shows the Naf River between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Google map.

Bangladesh Army said in a statement that Bangladesh would not fight strong Tatmadaw although Myanmar Border Guard is fighting Arakan rebels in Naf river which is a part of Bangladesh.

Hundreds of frightened people have gathered near the border and are looking for opportunities to cross the Naf River into Bangladesh, refugees who have made it say, according to an official of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), an advocacy group.

Rohingya refugees near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, in 2017: The South Asian country says it is clamping down on its border amid concerns that more people will try to flee Myanmar.   © Reuters

Muhammed Jubair, general-secretary of the the ARSPH, said newcomers to Bangladesh include two children, two women and a man who crossed earlier this month. Some media outlets have reported that over a dozen Rohingya people entered Bangladesh this month and have taken shelter at the camps around Cox’s Bazar.

Bangladesh Border Guard is standing in front of Naf river with bamboo sticks where Myanmar Army is firing artillery rockets in Bangladesh. Photo the Daily star.

The trickle comes as Bangladesh already hosts around 1 million refugees in a cluster of camps, raising concerns among Bangladeshi officials that far more may be on the way. At the same time, Dhaka recently summoned Naypyidaw’s ambassador to protest about bullets and mortars that fell on Bangladeshi territory since renewed fighting broke out in August, sparking panic among residents.

Jubair said that due to the clashes, Rohingya residents in Myanmar are afraid to go outside for work, have no food, and thus are trying to flee. He said the husband of one of the women who came had been killed by the Myanmar Army in Rakhine state, prompting her to run with her 3-month-old baby.

More than 1 million Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar after a brutal crackdown by Myanmar military.

Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asadduzzaman Khan Kamal on Saturday told reporters that Dhaka would seek the intervention of the United Nations. “We condemn the activities Myanmar [is] presently doing at the border,” said the home minister when asked about reports that a Rohingya teen living in a camp near the border was killed by a mortar shell fired from Myanmar.

Myanmar’s ambassador to Bangladesh, Aung Kyaw Moe, was summoned to the foreign ministry on Sunday in protest. The ambassador claimed that it was Arakan Army rebels who had been firing stolen mortars toward Bangladesh to damage relations, according to Bangladesh’s acting foreign secretary.

Rohingya refugees are fleeing Myanmar. Myanmar Army is shelling inside Bangladesh. Photo Reuters.

Government officials working in Rohingya camps would not confirm the arrival of a fresh group of people from Myanmar. “Officially I have no information of new entrance of Rohingya people to the camps,” Shah Rezwan Hayat, refugee relief and repatriation commissioner in Cox’s Bazar, told Nikkei Asia.

He conceded that the current situation in Rakhine is unstable, and noted that law enforcement agencies had been put on 24-hour patrol to prevent an influx of refugees.

“The border guards are on alert while the district police are also working as a second line,” he said, adding: “Our stand is very clear. We won’t let anyone enter the country anymore.”

Border Guard Bangladesh data show that the agency turned away 480 Rohingya people trying to cross the river and enter the country this year, up to July.

In August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya nationals, mainly Muslims, fled Myanmar to escape a brutal crackdown by the armed forces following attacks by a rebel group. Untold numbers were killed and villages were burned in violence that United Nations investigators found to have had “genocidal intent.”

Since then, the refugees have been living in nearly three dozen camps in different parts of the Cox’s Bazar and Noakhali districts, supported by funds from different multilateral agencies including the U.N.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said Bangladesh had provided shelter to Rohingya people on humanitarian grounds, but that they are becoming a “burden.” She is expected to urge global leaders to play an active role in arranging the repatriation of the refugees in a speech to the Untied Nations General Assembly in New York later this month.

Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen on Wednesday said the government has sealed the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to prevent a further influx. “We won’t take any more Rohingya people,” he said.

Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, said that if Myanmar is creating a situation that forces Rohingyas to leave Rakhine state, it is violating the provisional judgement of the International Court of Justice. “Bangladesh needs to take the issue to the U.N. Security Council,” he said, adding that now is the time to stop the creation of more stateless refugees lest the numbers swell further.

Ahmed said that since the military is in power in Myanmar, Bangladesh needs to find new ways to push bilateral negotiations forward. “The Myanmar military is not giving value to the civilian approaches showed by Bangladesh,” said Ahmed, who is also director of the Centre for Genocide Studies at the university.

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