Myanmar conflict: Why is Bangladesh reluctant to erect fence along border?

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News Desk

Amid the ongoing conflicts in Myanmar, India has revealed plans to construct a barbed wire fence along its over 1,643km border with the country.

However, Bangladesh is not considering any such action at the moment.

During a recent visit to New Delhi, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud held discussions with Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Officials expressed concerns that large areas of the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar consist of riverways. Consequently, while barbed wire fencing might serve India’s interests, it may not be a practical step for Bangladesh.

During Wednesday’s meeting with S Jaishankar and Ajit Doval, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud said Bangladesh wants to move forward with a “coordinated action plan” with India to handle the crisis on the Myanmar border, but Bangladesh is not thinking of fencing the border with Myanmar right now.

The next day, Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud faced the same question during a question-answer session of “Vivekananda International Foundation”, a think tank based in Delhi.

In response, he said hundreds of members of Myanmar’s security forces have fled in recent weeks. “From what I understand, that is why India has decided to put up this fence and it will surely be a practical step for them. However, it may not be as effective for Bangladesh.”

The Bangladesh government has expressed several distinct reasons for its reluctance to install a barbed wire fence along the Myanmar border, which they have conveyed to India.

What are the reasons?
The installation of barbed wire fencing is a time-consuming and expensive process. Even if the decision to install the fence is taken, it will take at least three years to complete. As a result, it will not be of any use in dealing with the crisis that is going on at the moment.

Apart from this, it also has a big financial impact. The Bangladesh government will have to provide money to set up the border fence.

Additionally, about a quarter of the 271km international border between Bangladesh and Myanmar is riverways. That is, the Naf River, which flows between the two countries for 64km of that border, is the international border. Where no barbed wire fence can be installed.

Thirdly, sheltering millions of Rohingyas significantly enhanced Bangladesh’s reputation on the global stage many countries and donor agencies have extended a helping hand to the country.

Now if Bangladesh goes to set up a fence on the Myanmar border, it may have an adverse effect.

Besides, some observers believe that if Bangladesh wants to set up a fence on the Myanmar border, then the repatriation process of the Rohingyas to Myanmar may be hampered.

Therefore, the government remains steadfast in safeguarding these endeavors to prevent any potential risks or disruptions.

Situation in India
More than 200 members of Myanmar’s army, Border Guard Police(BGP) and other forces have entered Bangladesh through the Tumbru and Ghumdum border areas in the last week following clashes with insurgents in Rakhine state.

Meanwhile, since January, more than 600 Myanmar soldiers have taken shelter in India in the same way. Most of them had infiltrated through Mizoram district’s Lawngtlai, which is close to the border.

More than 40,000 refugees from Myanmar’s Chin State have taken shelter in Mizoram since the military coup three years ago.

Hence, a few days ago, Indian Home Minister Amit Shah announced that barbed wire fencing would be installed.

Currently, India and Myanmar have a Free Movement Regime (FMR) under which citizens of the two countries can move freely and visa-free up to 16km from the other’s border. The installation of barbed wire fencing will end that FMR.

Situation in Bangladesh
The situation in Bangladesh has become increasingly grim due to the ongoing clashes in Myanmar.

So far, a total of 330 Myanmar forces personnel, including BGP members, army personnel, and immigration officials have taken shelter in Bangladesh since February 3, according to Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).

As per the latest developments, Myanmar has announced its intention to dispatch a ship for repatriation purposes.

Myanmar is currently working to finalize the route of the ship as the BGP members will return through the deep sea, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Seheli Sabrin said at the daily briefing on Thursday.

On Saturday morning, members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) recovered two more unexploded mortar shells, reportedly fired from Myanmar, along the Tumbru border in Naikhongchhari upazila of Bandarban.

A local of the area, Razia, said she found some children playing with the rocket launchers on a field and informed the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) of the matter.

BGB members said they have placed barricades on the road for safety.

Meanwhile, since morning, heavy gunfire has been heard intermittently on the Myanmar side of Tumbru and Teknaf in Bandarban along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.

The BGB members said they were on high alert so that no new infiltration could take place through the border.

The sound of heavy gunfire in Bandarban’s Uttarpara and Teknaf’s Whykong union on Saturday morning created panic among the locals.

Earlier, on February 5, two people were killed and a child was injured after a mortar shell fell on the Ghumdum border in Bandarban.

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