Bangladesh steps up security along border with Myanmar to prevent influx of Rohingyas

Dhaka: Bangladesh said on Wednesday that it has stepped up security along its border with Myanmar to prevent a fresh influx of Rohingyas amid speculation that the coup in the neighbouring nation could push more refugees into this country.

“We have secured our border (with Myanmar),” Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen told reporters here.

He, however, said that Dhaka did not expect further Rohingya influx, but some friendly Western countries “fear that rest of the Rohingyas would flee to Bangladesh from Rakhine” due to the military coup in Myanmar, he added.

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His statement comes as officials in southeastern Cox’s Bazar that borders Myanmar’s Rakhine state said that the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has intensified patrols and vigils along the border.

Myanmar military seized the power on Monday detaining the country’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The military coup took place at a time when Bangladesh was spearheading a desperate campaign for safe return of some 1.1 million Rohingyas.

Momen said Dhaka wants to continue talks with Myanmar for “advancing the ongoing process to commence Rohingya repatriation”. 

“Our discussion will continue with the Myanmar government, not with any individual, he said. “We did the agreement (regarding repatriation) with the Myanmar government, not with any individual (so) the (repatriation) process should be continued.” 

Bangladesh is hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, who fled Myanmar facing military crackdown, often considered as “ethnic cleansing” by many rights groups.

In an immediate reaction after the military takeover, Dhaka issued a statement saying as an immediate and friendly neighbour, we would like to see peace and stability in Myanmar. 

Bangladesh firmly adheres to and promotes democratic ethos, it added.

Momen said Rohingya repatriation remained to be Dhaka’s top agenda in its relations with Myanmar.

“The border situation remains normal but we have enforced an extra security vigil to prevent any fresh Rohingya influx,” BGB’s 34 battalion’s commander Lieutenant Colonel Ali Haidar Azad said in Cox’s Bazar.

Another BGB official at the frontier town said Bangladesh border guards were “kept alert” as “we will not allow any influx from Myanmar”.

“We understand the international pressures on Myanmar army. If the pressure mounts, they will be forced to take us back,” a Rohingya representative, Nur Hossain of Leda Camp, said.

Rohingya leader at Jutupalang camp Saiful Islam said the “Burmese military forced us to flee our homes, but we are concerned as they took over the total control”.

The minister said in previous such influxes repartitions took place in 1978 and 1992 under the Myanmar’s military government and “if that time they could do so, why not this time”.

On January 19, the secretary level tripartite meeting among Bangladesh, China and Myanmar decided to hold the next joint working group meeting on February 4 for advancing the discussion about commencing repatriation of Rohingyas.

But, the meeting scheduled on Thursday is uncertain as Dhaka did not communicate with Myanmar officially after the coup.

“We were not able to contact with Myanmar as still their (Myanmar’s new authority) communication is shut down,” the minster said.

In the last three years, Myanmar did not take back a single Rohingya despite its pledges.

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