Report: Burma Army Postponed Meetings with Counterparts in Bangladesh

By Reuters 15 December 2016

RANGOON — The Burma Army postponed scheduled meetings with its counterparts in Bangladesh in mid-October while it was conducting anti-insurgency operations in northern Arakan State, according to Reuters.

“Regarding the Army to Army Talk between Bangladesh Armed Forces and Myanmar Defense Services… I deeply regret to inform you that our authorities would like to postpone,” said Lt-Col Aung Zaw Linn, head of foreign relations for the Burma Army, in a letter to Bangladesh officials on Oct. 13 that was seen by the news agency.

The military cited “unforeseen commitments” as the reason to postpone the nearly weeklong talks scheduled to start in Bangladesh on Oct. 16.

The letter was sent four days after nine Burmese police officers were killed in attacks on border posts. Since then, security forces have flooded northern Arakan State, hunting a Muslim Rohingya insurgent group that the government says was responsible.

Five days later, the head of Burma’s police division against transnational crime also pulled out of talks with the Bangladeshi border guard force planned for Oct. 25-27 in Dhaka, citing the security situation in Arakan State.

One document that was scheduled for discussion was a memorandum of understanding on security dialogue and cooperation between Burma and Bangladesh. Another document, reviewed by Reuters, would have created border liaison officers (BLOs) on both sides of the frontier and other collaboration measures including joint patrols.

Bangladeshi diplomats said last month that Burma pulled out of bilateral foreign ministry consultations seen as a preparatory step before a meeting of heads of state, according to Reuters.

Bangladesh is the only neighboring country that State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s foreign minister and de facto government leader, has not yet visited.

The Burmese military’s press office and presidential spokesman Zaw Htay did not respond to an emailed request for comment from Reuters.

Aye Aye Soe, an official in Burma’s foreign ministry, said there had been an “earlier meeting” between the two militaries on the “current refugee issue but (that) also involved other border related issues—drug trafficking and other trans organized crimes.” She said she had no other details.

Bangladesh Army spokesman Col Rashidul Hasan said he could not comment because he was not aware of the meeting. Gowher Rizvi, an external affairs advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, also declined to comment.