Protecting Rohingyas in Myanmar: Bangladesh seeks quick UNSC action | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 22, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, September 22, 2020

Protecting Rohingyas in Myanmar: Bangladesh seeks quick UNSC action

Bangladesh has sought the UN Security Council's action to ensure that Myanmar refrains from targeting Rohingyas under the pretext of security operations, because that may lead to further refugee influx into Bangladesh.

Expressing deep concerns over mobilisation of troops along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the UN in New York wrote an Aide Memoire to the UN Security Council (UNSC) president on September 15.

In a separate letter to Naypyidaw on September 14, Dhaka also called on Myanmar to immediately withdraw troops from there and respect its commitment regarding the exchange of information about any civilian and military activities near the international border.

On September 13, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh Aung Kyaw Moe to express concern over the suspicious movements of Myanmar soldiers along the border.

Kaladan Press reported that around 3,000 Myanmar troops were deployed in the bordering areas of Maungdaw -- a town in Rakhine State -- raising fears of 2017-like operations that forced some 750,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh. More than three years after the brutal crackdown, Myanmar now faces a genocide case at the International Court of Justice and investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Despite the repatriation deal with Bangladesh, not a single Rohingya refugee volunteered to return to Myanmar, saying conditions and safety were not there.

Meanwhile, conflicts between the Myanmar military and insurgent group Arakan Army (AA) have escalated in Kachin and Rakhine states in recent months, which rights groups say amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Experts say Myanmar could use the conflict with AA as a pretext to drive out Rohingyas ahead of the national elections in early November.

In the letter to the UNSC, Bangladesh Permanent Mission to UN said on September 10 that four Myanmar Navy logistics ships anchored off the coast of Inn Din village and disembarked the troops, who were then carried overnight by 20 civilian fishing boats along the Naaf River to locations as far as Ngar Khu Ya village, 20km north of Maungdaw Township and close to the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

In the early morning of September 11, around 1,000 Myanmar troops landed in different locations. Some of the disembarking points, such as Ka Nyin Chaung, Min Ga Lar Gyi and Ngar Khu Ya, are close to the international border. The route used during the troop mobilisation was as close as 200 meters to the international boundary at least at one point.

According to the ground information, the aide memoire said the troops conducted clearance operations during midnight on September 13 and 14 in Gwa Son/Yae Khat Chawng Gua Son of Maungdaw Township and reportedly detained five Rohingya men and three women.

Local sources in Cox's Bazar reported repeated sounds of gunfire on the other side of the border, and search operations being carried out in the villages near Maungdaw.

"These instances indicate possible large-scale clearance operations similar to that of 2017, with eventual cross-border and forced displacement of the civilian population into Bangladesh," the memoire said.

It may be concluded that these operations have no direct links to the conflicts with the AA, the letter said, adding that Myanmar citizens made a series of attempts in recent months to cross into Bangladesh for safe refuge in the backdrop of mounting violence in Rakhine and Chin states, inflicting civilian casualties and mass displacement.

"Failure to ensure protection of civilians and their properties during the security operations may lead to further influx of civilians of varied ethnic backgrounds to Bangladesh."

Bangladesh stressed that any security operations should be undertaken with extreme care and dexterity with full respect to the state responsibility of Myanmar to protect its civilian population.

The letter said massive movements of troops, particularly in civilian boats, along the international boundary without prior notice to Bangladesh may cause misunderstanding, leading to untoward incidents on the border.

Thus, it may undermine the efforts of both governments to maintain peace and stability in the bordering areas and promote friendly relations between the two neighbours, it added.

Dhaka and Naypyidaw agreed at paragraph 5 of annex III of the memorandum of understanding on the Establishment of Border Liaison Offices to share information on important civilian and military activities near the international border.

During June to September 10 this year, around 35 incidents of significant firing were reported at different locations near the international boundary. On June 4, 2020, between 3:00pm to 5:15pm, Myamar military and Border Guard Police conducted joint operations supported by military helicopters at around 500 yards inside Myanmar from the international boundary near BP 35. The operation was carried out without prior information shared with Bangladesh.

"Growing incidents of firing and clashes in Myanmar side near the international border poses threats to peace and stability in the border areas," the aide memoire said.

In view of the above, Bangladesh demanded immediate withdrawal of the troops deployed in areas close to the borders.

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