Asia

Bangladesh Fortifies Island Near Myanmar With Heavy Weapons, Gunboats

By Muktadir Rashid   2 January 2020

DHAKA—Authorities with the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) force are fortifying St. Martin’s Island, just south of Cox’s Bazar and off the coast of Myanmar, with 14 anti-tank missile systems and multiple high-speed gunboats, BGB officials said on Thursday.

The border guard officials also said construction has begun on roads along the Myanmar border and that Bangladesh will also install a fence along the boundary.

Officials with the Bangladeshi Ministry of Home Affairs said that the BGB director general, Major General Shafeenul Islam, and three other officials participated in a factory acceptance test and live demonstrations of the Corsar Anti-Tank Missile System held between Nov. 14-18, 2019.

“The procurement process still is on,” the BGB chief told a press conference at the security force’s headquarters in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka on Thursday.

He also said the BGB would be deploying modern boats along the maritime border with Myanmar to maintain around-the-clock surveillance.

The BGB chief also announced that his office will hold high-level talks with the Myanmar Border Guard Police from Jan. 5-9.

Another official said that four boats have already been procured from United Arab Emirates-based manufacturer Gulf Craft. At least two of these will be equipped with machine guns and deployed on the Naff River, which enters the Bay of Bengal at Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar.

The Bangladeshi government redeployed BGB personnel to St. Martin’s Island for the first time in 22 years in April 2019. The BGB force is armed with heavy weapons and reinforces an existing Bangladesh Coast Guard deployment there, officials said.

The April 2019 deployment came amid Myanmar’s building of a steel structure along the Naf River on the Myanmar side of the border without informing Bangladesh authorities.

“We are trying to improve our trust with Myanmar,” said a senior Bangladeshi security official on Thursday, who asked to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to talk to the press.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since the military launched clearance operations in 2017 in northern Rakhine State following serial attacks on security outposts by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. The UN has concluded that the operations amount to ethnic cleansing.

The recent influx of Rohingya has increased the number of undocumented people from Myanmar and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 1,116,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and the Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry.

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