Home minister says deployment not related to Myanmar's earlier claims to the island as part of their territory
The government has deployed Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) to Saint Martin’s Island after 22 years.
Members of the paramilitary force were deployed on Sunday to set up a border outpost on the island.
Routing patrols have been increased on the island recently and BGB troopers were also spotted performing training exercises.
“Heavily armed” BGB were deployed on the island following a “government directive,” said BGB spokesperson Mohammad Mohsin Reza in a press release.
The release, however, did not specify any reason or the specific directive regarding the deployment.
Previously, the then Bangladesh Rifles were stationed on the country’s lone coral island for security purposes till 1997, it added.
BGB Commander for the Ramu sector, Col Manzurul Hasan Khan, also told Dhaka Tribune that Sunday’s development had nothing to do with any specific threat from Myanmar.
The sudden deployment came when a Bangladesh delegation is visiting Myanmar to discuss border security.
• Heavily armed BGB personnel deployed following government directive
• Routine patrolling, training exercise underway as BOP being set up
• Home minister says issue of Myanmar claiming the island as its territory “in mind”
• Maps on Myanmar government sites falsely showed the island as part of its territory for twice last year
• Erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles guarded Saint Martin’s Island till 1997
BGB Director General, Maj Gen Md Shafeenul Islam, is leading the 11-member delegation. The 17-member Myanmar team is headed by Brig Gen Myo Than, Myanmar’s chief of police general staff.
The discussions are expected to end on Wednesday.
When asked if the BGB deployment was over Myanmar claiming Saint Martin’s Island on two previous occasions, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said: “The deployment is not related to that issue. But we are keeping it in mind. The BGB has been deployed to secure our borders.
Also Read- Myanmar claims St Martin’s Island is theirs
“Saint Martin’s Island is our southernmost border. It is only natural that we have a strong presence there.”
In October 2018, a map on a Myanmar government website showed the island as part of their territory. The map was removed after Bangladesh government strongly protested.
However, only a few months later in February 2019, the same incident repeated itself.
Locals welcome BGB presence
Local administration and residents of the island have welcomed the BGB personnel with open arms.
Teknaf UNO Md Rabiul Hasan said: “Apart from the Bangladesh Coast Guard, the BGB will also work to guard the border from the island.
“The construction of the BGB outpost is also almost complete.”
Saint Martin’s Union Parishad Chairman, Nur Ahmed, told the Dhaka Tribune: “When the BGB started rolling in heavy weaponry, we grew concerned. But, we understand they are setting up a border outpost on the island, something the residents have been demanding for years.
“We are very happy with the BGB deployment.”