At least two moral shells fired by Myanmar into Bangladeshi territory on September 3 in the morning were illegal under international law. The event occurred five days after Bangladeshi officials summoned Myanmar’s ambassador in Dhaka and sent him a note verbale in protest over Myanmar’s use of two deadly shells at the same location on August 28. This raises greater concerns. According to the police investigative center at Ghumdum in the hill area of Bandarban, at least two fighter jets flew over the Bangladesh border while firing eight rounds, while two military helicopters hovered while firing more than 30 shells.
Bangladesh has reiterated its “deep concern” over Myanmar’s violation of the air border agreement, with mortar shelling inside Bangladesh and indiscriminate firing from aircraft in border areas.
In addition to suppressing internal rebels (Arakan Army), the presence of the Myanmar army on the border is again raising fears of Rohingya infiltration into Bangladesh. There have been allegations of inaction to deport the remaining Rohingyas staying in the country through maneuvering. In this situation, the local residents have announced new intrusion prevention.
Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) is also active
For the past few days, there has been an ongoing conflict in Rakhine State, an area bordering Bangladesh and India in Myanmar, which is affecting the neighboring countries as well. Especially the residents of Ghumdhum and Tambru border areas of Bandarban are in a panic. On the other hand, many people of these states fled and took refuge in India.
On the one hand, as the Myanmar army is fighting with the Arakan Army in Rakhine, on the other hand, since last May, the Myanmar army has started a major military operation against the rebel groups in Kayah, Kain and Chin states. The military forces of that country are also using helicopters and warplanes in this war.
The military junta wants to hold general elections in Myanmar in August 2023. Before that, they want to establish their complete control in Rakhine and other states. Rakhine State is particularly important to them, as the state shares the border with Bangladesh and India, Myanmar’s Rakhine State is an area bordering Bangladesh. Where the conflict is going on, too is just across the border in Bangladesh.
As a result, the Bangladeshi residents of the border area are terrified of the conflict there. Four and a half thousand Rohingyas have been living on the Tambru border line in Naikshatchari for the past few years, where this violence is going on. Due to the violence, there is a fear that they will move to Bangladesh.
It has been alleged that there is a plot to move the remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar to Bangladesh. As of August 2017, the Myanmar Army has been flying warplanes and helicopters along the border of Bangladesh, firing and bombimg mortar shells. Among them, four mortar shells and numerous bullets have landed in the territory of Bangladesh. Locals complain that this strategy of Myanmar will cause Rohingya infiltration like before.
The two shells fired on August 28 landed half a kilometer inside the Tambru border but did not do any damage, in contrast to the two shells fired on September 3 at Tambru of the Ghumdum border, which burst about 120 meters into Bangladeshi territory. We express our outrage at Myanmar’s flagrant disregard for international law, demonstrated by its twice-weekly firing of deadly shells into Bangladesh despite previous complaints following the initial breach on August 28.
Usually, when an operation is carried out near the border, a warning is given if there is a relationship between the two states in this operation. “But no such information was given to Bangladesh. It is a violation of international norms not to inform Bangladesh before conducting operations against Arakan.”
This is not Myanmar’s first offense against international law
In September 2017, shortly after launching a genocide against the Rohingyas and driving a sizable number of them out of its Rakhine state and into Bangladesh, Myanmar repeatedly violated Bangladesh’s airspace for a week. Additionally, it continued to instill fear in Rakhine State so that none of the 1.2 million Rohingyas who are currently seeking refuge in Bangladesh would agree to go back to their home country.
Such activities pose a serious threat to the safety of peaceful people, a sustainable process of Rohingya repatriation, a violation of the border agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and to the good neighborly relations between the two parties.
It appears that Bangladesh, which has about 165 million people, or about three times as many as Myanmar, is the target of such violations of international law by a nation like the military-run Myanmar, which has a poor reputation among other states worldwide. This could be because Bangladesh has an international reputation in terms of politics and strategy as a peaceful country. But Myanmar must understand and realize that Bangladesh is also a militarily capable country. If Myanmar continues to pursue an offensive strategy, Bangladesh can take a defensive approach along the border. This can cause the destabilization of the whole region.
Regional stability might get affected
Although Bangladeshi officials claim to be closely monitoring events, the incident—more so in light of previous events—is sufficient to raise questions about Bangladesh’s security and territorial integrity.
On Sunday, Bangladesh reaffirmed its “grave concern” on recent incidents including mortar shelling from Myanmar, indiscriminate aerial firing in the border regions, and violations of the airspace.
The Bangladeshi foreign ministry strongly protested the recent incidents along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border and summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh Aung Kyaw Moe. The ministry had called the envoy three times in a little over a week to express their worry.
The circumstances call for Bangladeshi authorities to make stern diplomatic objections to Myanmar’s behavior and to take the necessary steps to prevent similar sad incidents from happening in the future.
While Bangladeshi authorities have little choice but to vigorously protest Myanmar for its egregious breach of international law in shelling Bangladeshi land, Dhaka must do so in order to prevent future occurrences of this kind.
Given the circumstances, Bangladeshi authorities should strongly denounce Myanmar’s actions through the diplomatic process and take appropriate action to prevent a repeat of such regrettable incidents.
While there is no room for Bangladeshi authorities to accept lightly Myanmar’s egregious breach of international law by shelling Bangladeshi territory, Dhaka must make a strong complaint to Naypyidaw to put an end to future episodes.
The writer is an India-based researcher at Gauhati University, Assam. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.