Bangladesh Chief of Army Staff General Shafiuddin Ahmed salutes while inspecting a guard of honor prior to a meeting with India's Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane (not pictured) in New Delhi on Sept. 7, 2021. / AFP
DHAKA—Bangladesh Army chief General SM Shafiuddin Ahmed said on Wednesday his personnel are ready to respond if the Myanmar military does not stop firing across the border in pursuit of Arakan Army (AA) fighters. He said he had sent his Myanmar counterpart a strong message complaining of junta forces’ shelling, shooting and jet and drone flights after a Rohingya person was killed and a number of others were injured by shelling in the hilly Bandarban area.
“We are ready to respond if it is needed. That’s for sure. I am in contact with all my stakeholders…” he told the “Dhaka Cantonment” program.
The Bangladesh army chief said he had established communication with his Myanmar military counterpart with the consent of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the country’s Defense Ministry, and sent a strong message.
Myanmar military regime troops and the AA, a local ethnic armed group, have been warring near the Bangladesh border in northern Rakhine State. Bangladesh has filed complaints with the regime for conducting fighter jet and drone flights over its territory, and for using mortars and machine guns to fire across the border, since August.
In the latest attack on Sept. 16, at least three mortar shells were fired into Bangladesh from Myanmar between 8:15 p.m. and 9 p.m., killing a 17-year-old boy, Mohammad Ikbal, and injuring six others, who were hospitalized.
Dhaka recently deployed both the Border Guard Bangladesh and Coast Guard along its land and water boundaries with Myanmar.
Attending a civil-military gathering, Gen. Shafiuddin said the Myanmar army chief replied to him in writing, through the defense attaché, that the Myanmar military was not responsible for the incidents, and that a rebel group was to blame.
“We are in close touch and we do not expect further deterioration of the situation. It will be peacefully solved,” he told the gathering, adding, “Should it be aggravating further, no worry, we are ready to respond to the situation.”
Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry said on Sept. 19 that it informed the Bangladeshi ambassador that the shells that landed on the Bangladeshi side were fired during attacks on border security posts by the AA and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), an insurgent group. It reiterated its call for Bangladesh to investigate AA and ARSA bases inside Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan on Wednesday held a high-level meeting with security and law enforcement agencies at his secretariat office to discuss the situation on the Myanmar border.
Following the closed-door meeting, the minister said the army and other forces were ready to defend the country.
“We have seen a number of provocations. We think Bangladesh has no role as long as there is an internal conflict where [the] Arakan Army is fighting with [the Myanmar armed forces].”
In reply to a question in New York, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, who is accompanying the prime minister during the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, said the conflict was between two groups inside Myanmar.
“Two groups are fighting in there…they [the Myanmar junta] told us they did not [deliberately target anyone]. One or two [shells] landed [inside Bangladesh] … by mistake. We summoned them and they assured us that they would be careful,” the minister said.
The minister added that the border had been sealed and no one would be allowed to cross it.