Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-Bangladesh has demanded Myanmar security forces return a border guard who was captured – and possibly killed – during a border skirmish and called on the government to take a “zero-tolerance” approach to troops instigating conflict.
The Bangladesh embassy in Yangon confirmed media reports that Myanmar security forces opened fire on a Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) patrol on May 28, reports The Myanmar Times.
One of the six BGB members is still missing and an embassy spokesperson told The Myanmar Times on May 30 that they believe he was either captured or killed by the Myanmar side.
“We have contacted the government of Myanmar, and we requested that they hand over the soldier alive or dead, since we don’t know” what has happened to him, the embassy spokesperson said.
The spokesperson, who asked not to be named, said the embassy did not yet have any information on what provoked the clash.
They said the embassy had reports from the BGB alleging that Myanmar security forces had also fired on Bangladeshi troops earlier in the week.
The spokesperson said the recent violence “definitely concerns” Bangladesh and said both governments should take a “zero tolerance policy” to troops that initiate conflict on the border.
However, the spokesperson was also stated that they did not believe the incidents would damage diplomatic relations between the two nations.
“There is no damage. This is a porous border. Sometimes these things can happen … We have regular meetings on [border security].”
The President’s Office could not be reached for comment.
The incident comes during a period of heightened tension on the border.
On May 17, several Myanmar border guard police were attacked at a border post in Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine State by an armed group that had illegally entered Myanmar from Bangladesh.
Four police were killed and another was injured, and the police officers’ weapons were also taken in the ambush.
While the government said only that it was perpetrated by an “armed group”, some media outlets speculated that the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation was responsible, with Eleven Media declaring recently that “terrorist war [is] spreading to the western part of Myanmar”.
This sensationalist reporting has been dismissed by most observers – including the Bangladesh embassy spokesperson – but there are concerns that marginalised Muslim communities in Rakhine State could be induced to take up arms.
Deputy Minister for Information U Ye Htut, who is also a spokesperson for President U Thein Sein, also expressed concern that such acts of terrorism could generate more hatred between the Buddhist and Muslim communities and prompt further instability.
He added that Bangladesh has, over the course of many years, arrested terrorists operating from its territory and cracked down on groups staging attacks against Myanmar.
He said he believes Bangladesh will respond to the incident appropriately because a stable border is in the interests of both countries.
As The Myanmar Times reported last week, observers in the border area say the May 17 incident and other recent attacks on security forces are indicative of a border that is growing increasingly lawless.
Saiful Huq Omi, a Bangladeshi journalist who has reported extensively from the border areas, said that since Muslims began fleeing across the border from Rakhine State after violence in 2012, the border has become a hotbed of criminal activity, as human traffickers and other smugglers see an opportunity for profit.
“Now you see more and more people getting involved in robbery, smuggling, and hijacking. It’s getting to be huge,” he told The Myanmar Times over the phone from Bangladesh.