Myanmar defies warnings
The government yesterday decided to send the foreign secretary to Myanmar tomorrow as Myanmar continues to ignore Bangladesh's warnings against trespassing.
Hydrocarbon exploration vessels and two warships of Myanmar, which intruded into Bangladesh's territorial waters Saturday, are yet to be withdrawn.
Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury summoned Myanmar Ambassador to Dhaka U Phae Thann Oo at the foreign ministry yesterday afternoon and conveyed the government's decision.
The foreign ministry also called the South Korean ambassador to Dhaka and asked him to withdraw the company working for Myanmar. The South Korean ships are now 50 nautical miles southwest of the St Martin's Island.
Three Bangladesh Navy ships are confronting six ships sent by Myanmar, which deployed around 50 people for oil and gas exploration there.
"We are sending Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain as a special envoy to lodge our protest at the highest level of Myanmar, so that the situation does not go beyond control," the adviser told reporters, adding, "We are sending the foreign secretary to protect our interest."
Sources said Navy official Commodore Habibur Rahman and retired commodore Khurshid Alam will also accompany the foreign secretary.
Emerging from a meeting with the Myanmar ambassador, who was summoned to the foreign ministry twice within 24 hours to hear the protest, the foreign adviser said several Myanmar vessels intruded into Bangladesh territorial waters for hydrocarbon exploration near deep-sea blocks 8-13 claimed by Bangladesh. But Myanmar claims those are within their territorial waters.
Iftekhar said the government will take all steps to protect the sovereignty and territory of Bangladesh. "We want to put an end to this situation forthwith...We want to resolve the matter diplomatically," he said.
He noted that Bangladesh is a peace-loving nation and "we do not want to go for any confrontation as Myanmar is our friendly neighbour."
The foreign adviser said Bangladesh and Myanmar will hold talks here on delimitation of boundaries on December 16-17. A deputy minister from Myanmar will lead his country's delegation as Myanmar attaches importance to the meeting.
On Sunday, the foreign secretary called the Myanmar ambassador to lodge Bangladesh's protest and he was asked to convey to his government Bangladesh's request to immediately suspend all activities within the declared maritime zones of Bangladesh in accordance with the Territorial Waters and Maritime Zones Act 1974 of Bangladesh.
The protest note categorically emphasised that Bangladesh government reserves the right to protect its interests and urged the Myanmar authorities to ensure withdrawal of their vessels and stop any exploration work until the delimitation of maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar is resolved.
Sources at the foreign ministry said Myanmar claims that it is exploring in its own territory.
Earlier, Iftekhar chaired a high-level inter-ministerial meeting at the foreign ministry on follow-up actions in the aftermath of the visit of General Maung Aye, senior vice general of Myanmar, and his delegation of seven cabinet ministers.
The meeting reviewed progress in areas such as border trade, rice purchase, contract farming, road building and boundary delimitation issues.
The foreign adviser stressed the importance of coordinated government and private sector actions, so that Bangladesh can derive maximum benefits out of relations with Myanmar.