Myanmar troops mobilised in Rakhine
Mobilising thousands of troops in northern Rakhine has created fears of a fresh crackdown and subsequent Rohingya influx like the one that forced around 750,000 members of the ethnic group to flee to Bangladesh.
Analysts think deploying troops near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border also could be Myanmar's tactic of provoking Bangladesh and distracting the global attention from the Rohingya crisis that has not been addressed yet even more than three years after the influx.
"One of the purposes of gathering troops in the Rohingya villages could be driving them out at a time when the world faces a global pandemic and other tensions over Indo-China border dispute and US elections," said Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan.
Another purpose could be provoking Bangladesh, he told this correspondent yesterday, a day after Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General (Myanmar) summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh, Aung Kyaw Moe, to express concern over the suspicious movements of Myanmar soldiers along the border since last Friday.
Myanmar troops were moved to northern Maungdaw's Rohingya-dominated villages in boats via the Naf river that divides Bangladesh and Myanmar, said an official concerned.
The foreign ministry asked Moe to take effective actions to avoid any misunderstandings between the two countries. The diplomat assured the ministry of communicating the matter to the Myanmar authorities, he said.
"We have our fishermen fishing in the Naf river. There may be unexpected incidents because Myanmar had no announcement on the movement of troops," said an official, adding that such movement along the border is a matter of concern for any country.
According to Kaladan Press, a Rohingya news agency, about 1,000 Myanmar troops arrived by boat in northern Maungdaw early morning of September 11.
Quoting a Rohingya boat driver, it said officials from Maungdaw had ordered 20 fishing boats from Maung Ni to travel down to Inn Din on the coast of southern Maungdaw, and stand by from September 8.
On September 10, four Burma Navy ships arrived off the coast of Inn Din, and the boat driver saw "thousands" of troops disembarking. That night, the boat drivers from Maung Ni were forced to transport the troops along the coast up to northern Maungdaw, carrying about 50 armed soldiers in each boat.
The troops disembarked at different locations along the Naf river, including Ngakhura, about 20km north of Maungdaw town; Maungdaw No.1 Jetty near Maungdaw town, and Kanyin Chaung.
"The arrival of so many Burma Army troops is creating fear among Rohingya residents of Maungdaw, who fear a repeat of the deadly "clearance operations" in 2017," reported Kaladan Press.
A Rohingya in Maungdaw said Burmese soldiers had already been in Rakhine in high numbers since 2017. Now the reinforcement of it with additional two to three thousand more is seriously worrying for the Rohingyas.
He said it was surprising why the troops used the waterways to reach to northern Rakhine when there were no problems with roads.
Security analyst Shahedul Anam said such troop mobilisation in Rakhine is happening at a time when it is failing to comply with the International Court of Justice order of preventing genocidal acts. Instead, the escalation of conflicts between Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (a Myanmar separatist group) in recent months left hundreds of ethnic Rakhine and dozens of Rohingya civilians killed, he said.
Meanwhile, two soldiers who deserted the military in Rakhine also confessed in a film of their involvement in mass killings of Rohingyas upon orders from the high command, a fact that could be significant in the investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Shahedul Anam said it is possible that the military would conduct operations in Rakhine to fuel the nationalistic behaviour of the Burmese ahead of the national polls on November 8.
Munshi Faiz Ahmad, former chairman of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies, said Myanmar had wanted to drive out all the Rohingyas from Myanmar. Now that all are busy tackling the coronavirus pandemic and are drawn by other regional or global tensions. It is not unlikely Myanmar military wants to drive out the rest six lakh Rohingyas to Bangladesh, he said.
Fighting the Arakan Army can also be used just as a pretext by Myanmar to actually conduct anti-Rohingya operations, he said.
Both the experts said Myanmar tried to provoke Bangladesh repeatedly by mobilising military along the border and by violating Bangladesh's air space, but Bangladesh has always dealt it with keeping heads cool.
"This time too, Dhaka should not do anything so that Myanmar can put blame on us. Rather, we should reach out to the international community and continue keeping the focus on addressing the Rohingya crisis," said Faiz, also a former ambassador.