• Sunday, Feb 23, 2020
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Myanmar again shows Saint Martin’s as its territory

  • Published at 05:03 pm February 14th, 2019
File photo of the shoreline of St Martin’s Island, locally known as 'Narikel Jinjira,' which is internationally recognized territory of Bangladesh Syed Zakir Hossain/ Dhaka Tribune

Naypyidaw assures of correcting the latest mistake by Friday after Dhaka summons envoy and lodges strong protest

Dhaka has lodged a strong protest with Naypyidaw, as a map in one of the websites of the Myanmar government falsely shows Bangladesh's Saint Martin's Island as part of its territory.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday afternoon summoned Aung Kyaw Moe, the chargé d'affaires of the Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka, and strongly protested the matter.

M Delwar Hossain, the director general of the ministry’s South East Asia wing, summoned the envoy to his office and asked for immediate correction of the mistake.

The Myanmar envoy was also handed a diplomatic communication that made clear Bangladesh’s strong feeling on this issue.         

“On October 6 last year, a Myanmar government website did the same thing. We strongly protested and due to our pressure, they corrected it,” Delwar Hossain told reporters after Moe left the ministry.

“Few days back this month, another Myanmar website displayed some of Bangladesh’s maritime areas on their map,” he said.

“We summoned the acting Myanmar envoy because we wanted to know why they are making this mistake again and again,” Delwar said.

“He [Moe] agreed with us that this should not have happened and admitted their mistake. We have asked them to correct it,” he said.

He added: “The Myanmar envoy contacted his country from the meeting. Tomorrow [Friday] is their working day. We have been assured that the mistake will be rectified by tomorrow.”

Also Read- Myanmar claims St Martin’s Island is theirs

On October 6 last year, Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry Rear Admiral (retd) M Khurshed Alam summoned Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka U Lwin Oo on the same issue and handed over a similar protest note to him.

That day, Myanmar Ambassador Lwin acknowledged the matter saying that it was a “mistake” to show the Saint Martin's Island as part of their territory.

What the protest note said

According to a Foreign Ministry source, the strongly-worded protest note handed to Aung Kyaw Moe on Thursday said that while the St Martin's island of Bangladesh is being presented on the governmental websites of Myanmar as their territory, Myanmar cannot deny her responsibilities of this utter misrepresentation just adding a disclaimer. “This is absolutely unacceptable,” reports UNB.

The source said the advanced interactive map section of the website of the Department of Population under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar containing various Geographic Information System data on Myanmar still shows the similar data gradients for the Saint Martin's island of Bangladesh as those of Myanmar.

Besides, the website of the Myanmar Statistical Information Services shows the Saint Martin's island of Bangladesh with the same colour as that of the Rakhine state, while a different colour has been used for other parts of Bangladesh, said the source.

Also Read- Myanmar removes St Martin’s Island from their map

"The continuation of such misrepresentation, despite the assurances on the part of Myanmar for effective measures to permanently redress the issue, could therefore be construed as a deliberate attempt of Myanmar."

Never a part of Myanmar

Saint Martin’s Island was never 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.

It was part of British-India when Myanmar got separated back in 1937 and that means it was part of India. A clear line was drawn in between.

And in 1947, officials said, the island was part of Pakistan, and it became part of independent Bangladesh after the 1971 Liberation War.

In 1974, it was also clearly stated through a signed agreement that the island is part of Bangladesh.

Even when Bangladesh won the maritime boundary dispute against Myanmar at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in March 2012, it was clearly mentioned that the Saint Martin’s Island is part of Bangladesh, officials said.

Myanmar reportedly spread the maps to two global websites showing the island is part of its territory.

The 2014 Population and Housing Census - Myanmar's first national census in 30 years - was undertaken by the Ministry of Immigration and Population with technical support from UNFPA between 30th March and 10th April 2014, according to the Myanmar Information Management Unit.

Earlier, Myanmar circulated a picture showing “insurgent training,” which is actually a photograph of freedom fighters during Bangladesh’s War of Independence in 1971.

The Myanmar military later issued a rare apology acknowledging that two photographs it published in a book on the crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority were “published incorrectly.”