Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to the country three times in the last two weeks to express Bangladesh’s deep concern at air and artillery strikes landing inside Bangladeshi territory and violations of the country’s air space.
Last week, the Myanmar military launched airstrikes after the ethnic Rakhine armed organization the Arakan Army (AA) seized a police outpost on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in Maungdaw Township in northern Rakhine State. At least two rockets fired by regime aircraft landed inside Bangladesh.
After Myanmar’s ambassador to Bangladesh, U Aung Kyaw Moe, was summoned for the third time on Sunday, Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press release: “During the meeting, the ambassador was also told that such activities are of grave threat to the safety and security of peace-loving people, a violation of the border agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar and contrary to the relationship of good neighbors”.
On Saturday morning, Myanmar military aircraft fired at least two rockets into a hilly area at Tamru in the Ghumdhum area of Naikhyangchhari Upazila in the Chattogram hill district of Bandarban, some six kilometres from Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, according to Bandarban police and civil administration officials.
There was no record of Myanmar’s violation of Bangladeshi airspace on Saturday, while Bandarban district police superintendent Tarikul Islam said no causalities were reported. However, at least two Myanmar fighter jets and two military helicopters were operating on Saturday along the frontier between Myanmar and Bangladesh around border posts 40 and 41.
The jets fired about eight rockets while the choppers fired over 30, said Bandarban police officials.
Two of the rockets exploded some 120 metres inside Bangladesh territory, the Bandarban police chief said.
On Monday morning, Ghumdhum Union Council chairman Jahangir Aziz told The Irrawaddy that the situation has been normal since Sunday morning.
Myanmar’s ambassador to Bangladesh was previously summoned to the foreign ministry in the capital Dhaka on August 21 and August 28, and was given letters of protest conveying Bangladesh’s grave concerns over air and artillery strikes landing in Bangladesh territory.
Bangladesh’s embassy in Yangon has also stressed their concern over the incidents with Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated Bangladesh’s foreign ministry.
Myanmar’s embassy in Dhaka has yet to respond to a request for a comment from The Irrawaddy.
Retired Lieutenant General Mahfuzur Rahman, a former principal staff officer of the Bangladesh armed forces, has been observing the situation along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border for many years. He told The Irrawaddy that the failure of the repeated summons of Myanmar’s ambassador to halt the air and artillery strikes indicated that Myanmar’s military regime doesn’t care about the violations of Bangladesh’s territory and air space.
Lt-Gen. Mahfuzur Rahman described the air and artillery strikes as “calculated provocation”, with Myanmar’s military regime very much aware that there is no political will in Bangladesh for a military response to the crisis.
Altaf Parvej, a Bangladesh-based South Asian researcher, told The Irrawaddy that Myanmar has asked Bangladesh not to shelter any AA fighters on its territory, whether formally or informally.
Although there is no evidence that Bangladesh is harboring AA fighters, the porous nature of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border means that it is possible that AA fighters have trespassed into Bangladesh.
Since Saturday’s incident, Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said that no matter how much Myanmar continues its provocation, Bangladesh will not allow anyone to cross the border.
He added that Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has been put on alert so that no one from Myanmar can enter.
At the end of August, Bangladesh’s home minister Asaduzzaman Khan told the Dhaka-based New Age newspaper that the Myanmar military often carries out operations to chase rebels into Bangladesh and that there was no major impact from such incidents. He added that the official position of the Bangladesh government is not to harbour insurgents from neighboring countries.
On August 24, BGB director general Major General Shakil Ahmed visited the border to inspect operations, training and administrative activities of BGB personnel in the Teknaf and Hnila areas of Cox’s Bazar.