The government on Sunday redeployed 100 Border Guard Bangladesh personnel with heavy weapons at Saint Martin’s Island after 22 years in addition to the existing deployment of Bangladesh Coast Guard.
The border guard headquarters in a release of Sunday stated that the redeployment of troops at the country’s remotest southern border in Cox’s Bazar came following a government directive.
The release signed by border guard spokesperson Muhammad Mohsin Reza said that border guards were kept deployed on the island until 1997.
The deployment came during a five-day border conference between Border Guard Bangladesh and Myanmar Police Force that began in Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw on April 6.
Border Guard director general Major General Md Shafeenul Islam is leading the 11-member Bangladesh team while the 17-member Myanmar team is headed by chief of police general staff of Myanmar Police Brigadier General Myo Than in the meeting.
Border Guard officials said that continued smuggling of narcotics, Yaba in particular, into Bangladesh, curbing terrorism in borders, intrusion and joint patrols, among other issues, were on the agenda of the meeting.
On April 4, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan in a meeting at border guard headquarters with the top border guard officials and civil administrators from bordering districts said that Bangladesh wanted to keep amicable relations with Myanmar.
He, however, doubted whether Myanmar really wanted to maintain similar relations with Bangladesh.
Diplomatic officials in Dhaka said that the deployment came amidst recent erection of steel structure along the Naf River inside Myanmar without informing Bangladesh. Bangladesh also fears further escalation of trouble inside Myanmar following recent gunship attack in Buthidaung of Rakhine State which left at least six Rohingya villagers killed and 13 injured on April 3.
Asked whether the deployment has any connection to Myanmar’s repeated inclusion of St Martin’s Island in her territory in maps, Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner and district magistrate Kamal Hossain said that the deployment was meant to increase security, especially to fight against drug smuggling and human trafficking.
On February 14, Bangladesh government summoned acting ambassador of Myanmar to the foreign ministry and protested against the further inclusion of St Martin’s Island of Bangladesh in Myanmar territory in a map on a website run by the Myanmar authorities.
Following the summons, acting Myanmar ambassador Aung Kyaw met foreign ministry director general for South East Asia M Delwar Hossain, who asked the envoy to take steps to correct the map excluding the St Martin’s Island from Myanmar territory.
Kyaw was told that the Myanmar authorities continued to show the island as a part of Myanmar despite formal protest against that on October 6, 2018 and demand for immediate corrective measures.
Continuation of such representation despite assurance on the part of Myanmar for effective measures to permanently redress the issue could, therefore, be construed as a deliberate attempt of Myanmar, said the ministry.
The Island has never been a part of Myanmar if anyone looks back at the history since 1937 and Dhaka says there is an ‘ulterior motive’ behind drawing and sharing the map of Myanmar on websites, according to the media reports.
The row on forged maps was created when the two countries were engaged in diplomatic efforts to start repatriation of forcibly displaced Myanmar ethnic minority Rohingyas to their ancestral home in Rakhine State from Bangladesh.
About 7,30,000 Rohingyas, mostly women, children and aged people, entered Bangladesh fleeing unbridled murder, arson and rape during ‘security operations’ by Myanmar military in Rakhine, what the United Nations denounced as ethnic cleansing and genocide, beginning from August 25, 2017.
The Rohingya influx took the number of undocumented Myanmar nationals and registered refugees in Bangladesh to about 11,16,000, according to estimates by UN agencies and Bangladesh foreign ministry.
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