BANGLADESH has ordered neighbouring Burma (Myanmar) to withdraw troops from their shared border region after large numbers of soldiers and weaponry were spotted just metres away from a makeshift Rohingya settlement.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they had summoned Burma’s ambassador on Thursday to discuss the situation.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have set up a camp on the land between the two countries. While it is still technically Burmese territory, it is beyond the border fence and is dubbed “no man’s land.”
About 5,300 people had been staying in a makeshift camp on the border line since late August, but roughly half moved to camps inside Bangladesh after the two countries met to discuss possible repatriation on Feb 20.
On Thursday, Burma armed soldiers and police, estimated to number more than 200, came to the border fence and appeared to be moving heavy weapons including mortars to the area, said a Bangladesh army official and the two guards.
Residents of the camp claim the army has been instructing them to leave the land over loudspeakers.
According to Bangladesh newspaper The Daily Star, Rohingya community leader Dil Mohammad also alleged that Burma’s border guard police often come near the barbed-wire fences, fire blank shots and even throw bricks and empty liquor bottles at the Rohingya, instilling in them a greater sense of fear.
The movement of troops so close to the border violated international norms, an official of Bangladesh’s border guard, Brigadier General Mujibur Rahman, told Reuters.
“We are sending them a protest note. We have already asked for a flag meeting,” said Rahman, the force’s additional director general in charge of operations, referring to a meeting of border guards of both countries.
“They have removed heavy weapons, such as machineguns and mortars, from the area after our verbal protests.” Burma’s main government spokesman, Zaw Htay, declined to comment on Thursday’s activity.
On Wednesday, he told Reuters that “terrorists” with links to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which had attacked 30 police posts and an army base in August, were sheltering in the border area.
Zaw Htay said he believed people were staying there to put political pressure on Myanmar’s government and “create a situation where Myanmar security forces and government officials will remove them.”
Additional reporting by Reuters