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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

From Manipur to Myanmar: Bangladesh vigilant against infiltration of stolen arms

  • 700 firearms recovered from April to September
  • Clashes in Myanmar lead to advanced weaponry spread
Update : 30 Nov 2023, 09:30 AM

In recent months, approximately 6,000 weapons have been looted in the Indian state of Manipur, with 2,000 recovered so far, leaving 4,000 still in the possession of various armed groups.

Simultaneously, clashes between the army and armed groups in northern Myanmar have been ongoing, leading to the acquisition of state-of-the-art weapons by the latter.

Against this backdrop, authorities are concerned about these weapons potentially crossing the border and entering Bangladesh ahead of the parliamentary elections, scheduled for January 7.

Police say that while there is a belief that illegal weapons may not be used directly in the upcoming elections, there are concerns about their falling into the hands of terrorists or militants since many political parties and groups have been carrying out a political movement demanding the ouster of the government.

Illegally acquired weapons typically play a role in political violence, murder, domination, extortion, and the drug trade in Bangladesh.

Sources indicate that these weapons originate from India and Myanmar, while some are manufactured in mountainous areas within Bangladesh, like Maheshkhali and Chakaria in Cox's Bazar.

The extensive 4,427km border with India facilitates the inflow of weapons, with the southwestern border serving as a significant route. Notably, weapons manufactured in the Munger area of Bihar, India, contribute to this inflow.

To prevent the illegal entry of weapons, the authorities have increased surveillance in border districts.

Police Headquarters Deputy Inspector General (DIG Operations) Anwar Hossain emphasized the need for vigilance, and instructions have been issued to law enforcement units, including district police, to recover illegal weapons.

He said: “We always ask the border districts to be vigilant so that no foreign weapons can enter the country. Besides, the border is the responsibility of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), and they are also watchful about this.”

Regarding the possibility of a special operation to recover weapons ahead of the elections, the senior police officer said: "No announcement of any special operation has been made yet. However, superintendents of police and other units in all districts have been verbally asked to emphasize the recovery of weapons. As part of regular work, operations are also being conducted to recover weapons.”

In a recent crime review meeting, apprehensions were voiced regarding weapons from Manipur entering Bangladesh, particularly in districts near the border.

Approximately 700 firearms were reportedly recovered from April to September.

India border

From May to August of this year, armed groups looted nearly 6,000 firearms from the government forces in Manipur, India.

Citing Indian officials, several media outlets reported that 4,000 weapons, still missing, are held by armed groups. Most of these AK-series weapons are sophisticated rifles and pistols.

The concerns heighten as armed groups, including the Kuki-Chin National Front, known for operating in Bangladesh's hilly areas, may facilitate the entry of stolen weapons.

The recent activities of a new militant group, Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, allegedly sponsored by Kuki-Chin members, have added to the overall security challenge.

Authorities say that Bangladesh has no direct border with India's Manipur. From Manipur, one has to come to Bangladesh via Mizoram or Tripura.

The hilly areas of Tripura and Mizoram, dominated by armed groups, are on the border of Comilla.

Comilla Superintendent of Police Abdul Mannan said: “As a border district, we are always vigilant. Now that it is election season, we are increasing our surveillance to prevent any illegal items, including weapons, from entering the country. Besides, we are working in coordination with BGB.”

Myanmar border

Apart from Manipur, concerns arise from reports of clashes between Myanmar's military junta and armed groups.

These armed groups in Myanmar are also roaming in the hilly areas of Bangladesh. As a result, there are fears of weapons looted from the Myanmar army making their way into Bangladesh.

Besides, Rohingyas travelling to northern Myanmar, like Maungdaw from Cox's Bazar, may also carry weapons, adding to security worries.

Wishing to remain anonymous, an officer at the police headquarters said that the authorities have information that many people from the Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar regularly travel to the northern areas of Myanmar.

“They bring in weapons that are buried inside Rohingya camps or underground in mountainous areas. But it is not always possible to conduct raids inside the Rohingya camps. That is why there is a fear of these weapons spreading from the Rohingya camps or the hilly areas,” he said.

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