During the last few months, Myanmar has been reported violating Bangladesh’s airspace in a bid to decimate rebel groups that are based along the Bangladesh-Maynmar border. Last month alone, there are reported five airspace violations. On September 16, it was reported a young Rohingya died from the shelling, with four Bangladeshi nationals injured. Early this month, it is reported in much-quoted Irrawaddy independent online news on Myanmar, that a Rohingya was killed and another man injured when a land mine exploded on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border adjacent to Bandarban district, Bangladesh.
Indeed, there has been reported since 2017 that Myanmar has been laying landmines across a section of its border with Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is handling the matter patiently and carefully in response to Myanmar’s persistent wrongdoing while taking into account the sensitivity of the border region.
The country has been using diplomatic means and applying pressure on Myanmar on a regional and global scale. Bangladesh government has regularly updated the problems to ASEAN representatives, not to mention directly voice conversion with the Myanmar embassy — four times since August.
Understanding the matter better
The subject would probably be brought up by Dhaka at the ongoing UN Assembly.
On September 20, the ambassador of Bangladesh was contacted by the Myanmar Foreign Ministry, which blamed the attacks on the Arakan Army (AA) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). The ministry has also asserted in the past that Bangladesh is home to AA and ARSA militants.
However, it appears that Myanmar’s assertion resorts to a “blame game.” We can easily examine the assertion that the military helicopter violated Bangladesh’s airspace and that neither AA nor ARSA is known for deploying heavy artillery or having air assistance. Furthermore, it raises questions about the assertion that AA and ARSA are present in Bangladesh. There are very few official reports that foreign rebels are operating out of Bangladesh.
Dhaka is reaching out to ASEAN — in which Myanmar is one of the bloc’s ten members, to help resolve the problem.
As of the early 2000s, ASEAN also adopted a community-based strategy and created a number of communities within it. As a result, ASEAN is imitating the European Union’s supranational structure (EU). As a result, it has a stake in any issue involving one of its member-states.
How ASEAN can help?
Additionally, ASEAN is heavily involved in the situation in Myanmar. Since the February coup in 2021, ASEAN has not extended an invitation to Myanmar’s top leaders to attend ASEAN meetings –a move that signals the blocs could shoulder towards its members, while Malaysia past May held a talk the National Unity Government (NUG).
ASEAN can be very helpful in reducing Myanmar’s transgressions at the border. Not just Bangladesh is affected. Thailand, a member of ASEAN, suffers significantly from Myanmar’s disregard for national boundaries. Myanmar without qualm violates Thai airspace. The country’s internal conflict is a major source of refugees as well as illicit traffic in drugs and weapons.
Bangladesh likewise experiences the same problems. Since there is already a conflict between the Myanmar government in Rohingya in 2017, a huge number of Rohingya and some Rakhine villagers have been uprooted by the military crackdown by the Myanmar government and most of them cross the border to Bangladesh or even India. In Mizoram, India, 589 Rakhine have already sought refuge. The last thing Bangladesh wants is the fighting to lead to another surge of Rohingya refugees.
Since ASEAN unites Myanmar and its Southeast Asian neighbors, it may exert significant pressure on Myanmar to stop, unless the border stability in this region will backslide.
It needs to be said that Bangladesh also has strong ties to ASEAN. Dhaka government has the potential to join as an observer. This year, Bangladesh Police has already been granted observer status by ASEANPOL. ASEAN must not and cannot forget that the Rakhine war zone is a part of the ASEAN neighborhood. As a result, ASEAN needs to engage in one of the “ASEAN boundaries” and take the issue seriously.
The region may become even more unstable as a result of additional refugee waves and human rights abuses. The tension along the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh is an early red flag that can transpire into a crisis in this region soon if the world and ASEAN communities did not come in help.
ASEAN should take the bold initiative to resolve the Rakhine dispute and pressure Myanmar to do well, for the sake of peace and stability in the region. After all, this is the purpose for which ASEAN was created, and anticipated to deliver
The writer is a women’s rights activist and a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.