Myanmar border guards, soldiers and civilians flee to Bangladesh

Rohingya have also tried to escape from fighting in Rakhine state, a Cox’s Bazar camp leader says.
Abdur Rahman and Ahammad Foyez
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and Dhaka
Myanmar border guards, soldiers and civilians flee to Bangladesh Myanmar Border Guard Police who fled from the Rakhine state to Teknaf, Bangladesh, are shown with weapons and other gear they brought with them, April 17, 2024.

Nearly four dozen members of the Burmese junta-affiliated Border Guard Police and soldiers have fled to Bangladesh since Tuesday night amid intensifying fighting between junta troops and Arakan Army rebels in neighboring Rakhine state, officials said.

Bangladeshis who live close to the border with Rakhine reported hearing loud sounds from artillery fire nearby. Over the past week, about 260 Myanmar soldiers, border guards and citizens have taken shelter in Bangladesh after crossing over at Naikhongchhari in Bandarban district and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district, authorities said. 

“Last night, 46 more BGP [Myanmar Border Guard Police] members took shelter while another one came on Wednesday,” said Shariful Islam, a spokesman for the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). 

He told BenarNews that efforts to repatriate those seeking shelter in Bangladesh had begun.

Bangladesh officials said that since a clash between the Arakan Army and junta forces began on Feb. 2, hundreds of BGP members have been fleeing across the border.

About 330 people including BGP members fled from Myanmar between Feb. 4 and 7, according to Bangladesh government data, and were returned to Myanmar on Feb. 15.

A similar exodus is occurring at the Thai border with Myawaddy in Myanmar’s Kayin state. Residents and Myanmar troops have been crossing the No. 2 Friendship Bridge linking Myawaddy to Mae Sot in Thailand as anti-junta rebels and junta troops have been battling for control of the region. 

Tension grows 

In southeastern Bangladesh, border residents, particularly in Teknaf, a sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, have heard mortar shells exploding in Rakhine.

“There have been sounds of gunfire on this border since Wednesday morning. It seems like there is a war taking place next door,” Teknaf resident Nazrul Islam told BenarNews.

Cox’s Bazar is home to about 1 million Rohingya who fled from Myanmar – most came following an August 2017 military coup against their Muslim minority group – who live in tightly packed refugee camps.

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Bangladesh troops escort Border Guard Police who fled Myanmar in February back to their home country from Cox’s Bazar, Feb. 15, 2024. [Abdur Rahman/BenarNews]

Teknaf municipality councilor Mohammad Moniruzzaman said fighting was not as bad during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

“But since the day of Eid (April 11), the sound of gunfire has started again,” he told BenarNews. “Shootings and explosions are happening almost every day now. Residents of the bordering area are now passing their days in fear.” 

He said the ground sometimes shook because of the ongoing fighting.

“We have asked our people to be careful,” Moniruzzaman said.

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The Bangladesh Coast Guard halted public access to the Shahpari Island jetty in Cox’s Bazar, Feb. 18, 2024. [Abdur Rahman/BenarNews]

Abdur Rahim, a leader at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, said camp residents were tense. He noted that some Rohingya still living in Myanmar’s Rakhine state had tried to flee across the border.

“As a result, law enforcement agencies’ surveillance at the border and camps increased and Rohingya were subjected to harassment.”

The BGB and Bangladesh Coast Guard have increased patrols along the 54 km (33.5 mile) border.

“We heard that some BGP members have taken shelter due to the conflict in Rakhine. However, we have stepped up patrols to prevent encroachment on the Naf area and the Coast Guard is ready to deal with any situation,” Lt. Cmdr. Khandaker Munif Taki, Coast Guard media officer, told BenarNews.

Meanwhile, Imtiaz Ahmed, former director of the Center for Genocide Studies at the University of Dhaka, said the Bangladesh government should be careful.

“The ongoing situation in Myanmar is very complex and the situation there can take any turn at any time,” he told BenarNews, adding that Bangladesh should ensure its border is properly guarded and avoid any conflicts.


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