Border Guard Bangladesh personnel were deployed with “heavy weapons” to the Saint Martin's island yesterday for checking smuggling and ensuring security of the tiny island in the Bay of Bengal.
The deployment followed a government directive, according to a press statement issued from the BGB headquarters yesterday.
It, however, didn't say what prompted the government to deploy BGB members there after about 22 years.
“As per the government directive, the BGB has been redeployed with heavy weapons to Bangladesh's Southernmost point, the Saint Martin's island, from today … The BGB had been deployed to the island for its security till 1997,” read the statement.
Contacted over the phone, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said the government redeployed the BGB to the island to guard the southernmost point of the country.
Talking to The Daily Star, Sarker Mohammad Mostafizur Rahman, acting commanding officer of Teknaf BGB-2, said a border outpost has been set up on the island.
“The BGB members will carry out patrols, protect the country's border and prevent smuggling.”
The development comes at a time when an 11-member BGB delegation, led by its Director General Maj Gen Md Shafeenul Islam, is visiting Myanmar to attend a high-level conference with the Myanmar Police Force.
The five-day conference, which began in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on Saturday, will discuss issues such as stopping inflow of yaba and other narcotics into Bangladesh, and curbing terrorism and trespass.
BGB sources in Dhaka said the personnel of the paramilitary force, alongside members of the law enforcement agencies including the Coast Guard, started patrolling the island yesterday morning.
In recent times, official websites of Myanmar showed Saint Martin's island as part of its territory.
Bangladesh foreign ministry summoned the Myanmar envoy in Dhaka twice -- in October last year and February this year -- and lodged strong protests against Myanmar's claim.
In "strongly worded" protest notes to Myanmar, the ministry also demanded immediate corrective measures and urged Naypyidaw to act responsibly and refrain from making such false claims.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” the ministry had said in its note.
On February 14, Delwar Hossain, director general of the South East Asia Wing of the foreign ministry, told reporters that Myanmar official websites, which showed Saint Martin's island as their territory, remained inaccessible for a few months after Bangladesh protested in October last year.
But the false claim was made again on Myanmar's official websites the same month.
Bangladesh first lodged a formal protest on the issue on October 6 last year.
In reply, Myanmar affirmed through a note verbale on October 21 that “…the organisation has also removed all links which falsely mentioned about Saint Martin's Island.”
But, with great concern, Bangladesh officials noticed that the advanced interactive map on the website of the Department of Population under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar (www.dop.gov.mm), continues to show similar data gradients such as population and land type for the Saint Martin's Island as those of Myanmar.