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The Financial Express

OPINION

Time to draw the line


Time to draw the line

Hostilities from the Myanmar security forces on the other side of the Bangladesh border at Naikhongchhari upazila of Bandarban district have no sign of abating.

Last Friday (Sept 16) a mortar shell fired by the Myanmar forces across Tumbru border landed on the no man's land killing a Rohingya boy and injuring five others including a child.

Notably, around 4,500 Rohingyas fleeing persecution by the Myanmar army in 20017 took shelter on the no man's land.

Earlier in the day, a local boy lost a leg in a mine blast at the Tumbru border area-the area being a minefield created by Myanmar security forces.

That apart, sounds of shelling and firing are being continuously heard from the hills in Myanmar just across the border causing panic among the people living on this side of the border. Similar hostile activities from the Myanmar's side have been taking place since the middle of August purportedly as part of that government's quelling a rebel insurgency spearheaded by what they say, Arakan Army (AA).

But that the Myanmar forces have been fighting rebels so close to Bangladesh's border, the government of that country has not so far cared to inform us. But sharing such information with a bordering country is an international obligation.

Worse yet, since the end of August, Myanmar's warplanes including helicopters violated Bangladesh airspace on a number of occasions with impunity. And as if that was not enough, flying low on the Bangladesh territory, these aircraft even carried out strafing terrorising the local population.

Clearly, these audacious activities by the Myanmar's security forces have been deliberate to test the limit of Bangladesh's patience. And consider the panic they have been able to create in the bordering Ghumdhum union in Naikngchhari upazila of Bandarban district! Some 499 secondary school certificate (SSC) examinees of the Ghumdhum High School centre had to be shifted on Saturday (Sept 17) to the Kutupalong High School centre of Ukhiaupazila in the neighbouring Cox's Bazar district.

How is Bangladesh dealing with these blatant military provocations by its arrogant eastern neighbour?

So far, it has been one of patience. But prime minister Sheikh Hasina, during her meeting on Saturday with the British Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer in London, told the latter that despite the adverse fallout of Myanmar's internal conflict within Bangladesh's own territory, the country (Bangladesh) has been showing restraint at its highest level.

However, regarding how Bangladesh is going to react in response to the killing of a Rohingya boy on the no man's land by Myanmar forces' shelling, the home minister told reporters on Saturday that as Bangladesh does not believe in war, it will try to resolve the matter peacefully and diplomatically. But, if need be, Bangladesh might lodge a complaint with the UN on this issue, he assured.

Now the question is-- will Myanmar respect our patience, or will they listen to any call from the UN to stop hostilities on our border?

So far, they have no history of ever having done so. On the contrary, they have already pushed 1.2 million Rohingya people, who fled occasional persecutions by the Myanmar's army in the country's Rakhine state, into Bangladesh.

The last such persecution on a genocidal scale taking place in Rakhine from October 09 of 2016 till August 25 of 2017 forced more than 0.7 million people to take shelter in Bangladesh.

But later, all the negotiations, at the bilateral level or otherwise, held so far including the external pressures brought to bear on Myanmar to take back Rohingyas and resettle them in their homeland in the Rakhine state have failed.

And that is for the simple reason that Myanmar authorities know they can go on doing so unchallenged. Thus emboldened, they have now started their next game of allowing their armed forces to fire and warplanes to make occasional forays into Bangladesh territory.

But it is time the line is drawn somewhere. Otherwise, Myanmar may take our patience for granted.

 

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