by Samina Ahkter

The bullets fired from Myanmar have arrived inside Bangladesh at the Ghumdhum-Tumbru border of Naikxyongchari Upazila of Bandarban district. As of September 10, Saturday, 9.10 a.m., shelling is still going on in Myanmar.

Shelling has been going on in the border areas of the country for several days now. On Friday (September 9) afternoon, a firing took place on the Myanmar border. The bullets fired from there reached the Tumbru area. It was reported that there were no casualties.

The firing started at 3:30 pm. Gunshots were heard across the border. Local people reported that the bullets fired from Myanmar have landed in Konapara, on the Tumbru border. However, there were no casualties. Later in the evening, locals reported that a small arms fire was heard in Ward No. 3 Tambru Ghonarpara area. no casualty was reported.

People living on the border say that from the afternoon, suddenly, there was a rain of gunfire on the Myanmar border in the middle of the Tumbru border in Naikshyongchari and it was worse than other days. Gunfire was heard till 8 pm. There was also an incident of firing from Myanmar in Tumbru Konarpara. The border people were in fear.

According to media reports, the firing has been going on at the border since the afternoon. Gunshots were still being heard. People heard that another bullet from Myanmar has landed here today. Fighter planes were also seen in the sky. People were afraid because it is night.

Superintendent of Police (SP) Tariqul Islam Tariq of Bandarban said that the matter is being investigated.

In addition to firing mortar shells in the border areas for several days, warplanes were also firing in the air. More than 4,000 Rohingyas have been living on the zero line of the border for five years. As such, Rohingyas living in no man’s land are living in fear.

Last September 3, at 9:30 am, two shells fired by Myanmar warplanes fell in the Ghumdhum area of Naikkhyongchari Upazila in Bandarban. Earlier, on August 28 around 3 pm, a mortar shell fired from Myanmar landed unexploded near the Tumbru North Mosque in Ghumdhum. Bangladesh protested in both cases. Myanmar launched at least two mortar shells at Bangladesh on September 3, violating international law.

Five days earlier, Bangladeshi officials summoned Myanmar’s envoy to Dhaka and expressed their outrage at Myanmar’s August 28 firing of two deadly bullets at the same location. According to the Ghumdum police investigative centre, at least two fighter aircraft fired roughly eight bullets across the border, while two military helicopters fired more than 30 rounds.

Bangladesh has reiterated its profound concern about Myanmar’s violation of an air border agreement. The Arakan Army is ready to crush the insurgents, but the Myanmar army’s presence on the border is raising fears about Rohingya infiltration into Bangladesh, according to the Bangkok Post.

The Rakhine State, a region of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh and India, has been witnessing turmoil for many days. In addition to battling the Arakan Army in Rakhine, the Myanmar army has undertaken a significant military offensive against insurgent groups in the states of Kyah, Kain, and China. Over 4,000 Rohingyas have lived along the Tambru boundary line in Naikshatchari for the past few years, where the violence is taking place. Since August 2017, the Myanmar Army has begun flying jets and helicopters around the Bangladesh border. Bullets and mortar rounds have been fired into Bangladesh.

Unlike the two shells launched on September 3 at Tambru, which exploded over 120 metres within Bangladeshi territory, the two rounds fired on September 10 landed half a kilometre inside the boundary but did not do any damage.

Despite the sound of gunfire and mortar shells ringing in their ears, it is hard for the locals to tell what is going on there. However, many residents in the area said the Arakan Army has been fighting with the Myanmar army across the border in the Rakhine state for more than two weeks now.

For the sake of maintaining normal relations between the two countries, Myanmar should immediately take effective measures to stop all kinds of unwanted behaviour at the border area as this is the peaceful way to go.

While the shells are said to have been defused by the Border Guard Bangladesh’s (BGB) bomb disposal team, the incident does not bode well for the stability of the region as well as for Bangladesh and Myanmar. Bangladesh has every right to be extremely concerned about this issue since it views the incident, whether it was deliberate or not, as a challenge to Bangladesh’s sovereignty and as having the potential to worsen bilateral relations.

More than a million Rohingyas have left the turmoil in Rakhine and entered Bangladesh over the past forty years, with more than 700,000 of them entering the country only in 2017. As a result, the relationship between the two nations has already remained tense.

The two nations signed agreements, in November 2017 and in January 2018, but repatriation attempts have stalled due to the unwillingness of the Myanmar government and a tense situation in Myanmar.

The mortar shells that were fired are the most recent instance of Myanmar’s blatant disrespect for Bangladesh’s sovereignty, its bilateral relations with Bangladesh and regional peace.

The Myanmar government is not yet known to have acknowledged the occurrence or made clear its views. Such disdain was also evident in August and September 2017, when Myanmar helicopters repeatedly violated Bangladeshi airspace to which the Bangladeshi government vigorously objected.

The persistence of these occurrences points to Myanmar’s ongoing violation of international law. Additionally, it runs counter to friendly neighbourly relations and may result in unanticipated events that are not in the interests of Myanmar, Bangladesh and other nearby nations.

An unstable Rakhine region poses a threat to the safe and honourable return of the Rohingya population, and an unstable border poses a threat to those who live there. A stable and peaceful neighbour is always desired and, in fact, essential for any country.

Bangladesh can destabilize the whole region by supporting the insurgent groups of Myanmar. It has a strong military, modern military logistics, international community support and opportunities to do so. But Bangladesh does not support any kind of insurgency or provocation in the region because it believes in the peaceful coexistence of every actor in the region. Myanmar must respect Bangladesh’s peaceful attitude, mindset and mechanism.

To protect the interests of both countries and the international community, the Bangladesh government will protest against its colleagues in Myanmar and demand an explanation for the mortar shell incident.

It strongly denounces the mortar shell event of the Myanmar government and will inform international and regional forums about the most current and prior cases of international law violations.

About the writer:

Samina Akhter is a Dhaka-based freelance writer and a women’s and human rights activist at Bangladesh Mohila odhikar Parishad, a human rights civic group.