At the flag meeting with Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) on Friday, Myanmar’s Border Guard Police (BGP) claimed that they had heard a gunshot from the Bangladesh side in the morning.
The BGB rejected the claim saying not a single bullet has been fired in the Tambru-Konarpara border area since last August 25, when hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas started fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh, sources say.
Locals, Rohingya refugees, and a number of BGB officials said they had heard no gunfire from Bangladesh territory in the morning.
Lt Col Monzurul Hassan Khan, leading the seven-member BGB team, said gunshots were often heard from the Myanmar side of the border.
“This type of activity can create confusion between the two neighbours,” the commanding officer of BGB 34 Battalion said at the meeting, according to several senior officials of BGB Cox’s Bazar Ad-hoc Region and 34 Battalion.
Friday’s hour-long meeting, which started at 3:30pm, was held near the Bangladesh-Myanmar Friendship Bridge near Bandarban’s Gumdum border outpost after the sudden increase of Myanmar troops at Taung Pyo Letwe border area.
Myanmar sent more troops to the border area two days after three Nobel Peace laureates – Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Tawakkol Karman of Yemen, and Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland – visited the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar and Tambru.
The BGP did not join Friday’s joint border patrol. A 10-member BGP team, led by its Branch 1 Commanding Officer Police Lt Col Saw Zarya Lin, said that they would not join the scheduled joint border patrol activities until March 10. The BGP has said its troopers would join the scheduled joint patrol from March 11-27.
Myanmar border guards also requested the BGB to help them clean the garbage and waste near the tents of Rohingyas in the no man’s land, with the support of Red Crescents. The BGB said it would assist after getting instructions from its headquarters.
During the talks with the BGP, the BGB inquired about the increase of Myanmar troops within 150 yards of the border fence and setting up of heavy weapons on hills in nearby areas aiming at Bangladesh on March 1.
Although the BGP admitted to increasing their troops, they denied reports of bringing in the heavy artillery.
Lt Col Monzurul requested the BGP to inform them beforehand about any move to increase troops, weapons, and special activities near border areas pointing out that such moves create panic among Bangladeshis living nearby.
Both the BGB and the BGP commanding officers agreed that they would meet again if such situations occur.
The BGP claimed that ARSA militants had been hiding in no man’s land near the Tambru-Kornarpara and were hindering their regular activities at the border – a claim shot down by the BGB.
Myanmar troops in three pickups and seven trucks, equipped with heavy weapons, reportedly went to Taung Pyo Letwe on March 1. The troops allegedly tried to cross the border fence using ladders but were obstructed by the Rohingyas. Later, they went back to their territory and fired several rounds.
These attempts were made three to four times after sunset on March 1, but the troops were withdrawn around midnight.
But the next morning, Myanmar troops on three to four vehicles went to the border and withdrew around 11am.
About 15 to 20 minutes before Friday’s flag meeting, Myanmar troops on six vehicles were seen in the border area. They stayed there until midnight, said Rohingya leaders Dil Mohammad and Mohammad Arif.
The BGB also took position along the border but the situation did not escalate.
Lt Col Monzurul said they installed three CCTV cameras at the Tambru border area. There were no CCTV cameras in the border before, BGB men told the Dhaka Tribune.
About 6,500 Rohingyas have been living at Tambru border, which is separated from Bangladesh by a thin canal adjacent to Naikhyangchhari’s Gundhum, since Myanmar’s crackdown in Rakhine state last August.
More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh in the past six months, joining more than 400,000 others who had already been staying here.
On November 23, Dhaka and Naypyidaw signed an agreement to begin repatriating the refugees from January this year, but this process has stalled over technical and ground-level complexities.