Bangladesh should demand an immediate withdrawal of Myanmar forces from the Tambru border area and must strengthen its own military presence in the region, experts have said.
The calls came in response to the sudden move made by Myanmar on Thursday to reinforce its military positions along the no man’s land between Bangladesh’s Konapara and Myanmar’s Tambru, by dispatching a number of trucks loaded with heavy arms and ammunitions.
Since then, the Myanmar army has further strengthened its presence, with six more trucks joining the existing 10 parked in no man’s land on Friday only 15 minutes before a flag meeting of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
The flag meeting was only held after BGB sent a protest note and made the meeting request.
Former Foreign Secretary Towhidul Islam said Bangladesh should now demand that Myanmar immediately withdraw its forces.
“The formal letter that was sent on Friday [Thursday] summoning the country’s ambassador is a sign of the right kind of diplomacy,” he said.
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“We should present the issue of Myanmar’s move to the international community more forcefully. Bangladesh has shown, and is still showing, a great deal of patience. We should let everyone know better that Myanmar is not happy with the idea of Rohingya repatriation.”
Towhidul said it was “very natural” that Bangladesh should seek to increase its own military strength on the border in response to Myanmar’s move. “If one side shows their prowess, the other side cannot just sit. They have to show their prowess as well,” he said.
The Rohingyas have been living in constant fear of their lives in recent months, with almost 6,500 refugees currently living in the no man’s land. On Thursday, the Myanmar military tried to cross a barbed-wire fence to enter the no man’s land, and blanks were fired in the evening.
Defence Attaché to Myanmar Shahidul Huq said: “Rather than conducting this military showdown for Bangladesh, I think Myanmar wants to remove the Rohingyas living on the zero line by scaring them.
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“According to international law, the army cannot stay within 5km of any border. But we should still show our military presence in such a way that Myanmar can understand that Bangladesh is ready.”
When asked whether such a step would damage the repatriation process or not, the defence attaché replied: “If the Rohingyas living on the no man’s land returned, the Rohingyas living inside Bangladesh would get some assurance.
“But the Myanmar army’s move to push these Rohingyas living on the zero line to Bangladesh will create a negative impact on the minds of Rohingyas living on this side of the border.”
Since August 25, 2017, around 700,000 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh after fleeing violence at the hands of the Myanmar army.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com