Bangladesh seeks Myanmar steps to protect innocent civilians

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Bangladesh on Saturday sought Myanmar steps to protect “innocent civilians” in its western Rakhine state as escalated violence reportedly killed so far 89 people as an army-led crackdown there was underway, prompting Dhaka to intensify vigil at southeastern frontiers.

“Bangladesh stressed on the need for respecting the state responsibility to protect its civilian population and urged Myanmar to ensure appropriate protection and shelter for the unarmed civilians especially the vulnerable segments of the population such as women, children and elderly people,” a foreign office statement said.

It said Bangladesh took note of renewed clashes after the attacks on the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) posts in Rakhine on 25 August 2017 and condemned the assaults but simultaneously expressed concern at the loss of innocent lives in those clashes that “occurred following recent deployment of forces in Ratheedaung-Buthidaung areas”.

The statement was issued shortly after Charge’d Affaires of Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka met the Secretary for Asia & Pacific region Mahbub Uz Zaman at foreign ministry “to discuss the evolving situation in the Rakhine State”.

“The Secretary also emphasized on addressing the underlying root cause of the protracted problem through a comprehensive and inclusive approach,” it said adding that Dhaka also pointed out that the terrorist attack and clashes occurred at a time when the Rakhine Advisory Commission, popularly known as Kofi Annan Commission, made recommendations towards durable solution for the Rakhine State.

The development came as Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) today pushed back more Rohingyas and halted hundreds others on the frontiers amid reports of escalated violence in the Rakhine state that killed so far 89 people as army-led crackdown there was underway.

Officials said BGB troops today sent back 73 more Myanmar’s Muslim ethnic minority people called Rohingyas intensifying further the vigil with extra mobilization along the 64-kilometre long frontier, mostly land borders, a day after 176 of them were returned home.

“We have sent back 73 more of them today,” BGB’s Battalion 2 commander Lieutenant Colonel SM Ariful Islam told BSS while the district administration and police held two joint meetings with public representatives in the frontiers to mobilize an anti-influx campaign.

Deputy Commissioner Ali Hossain said the public representatives offered their assistance to guard the pours frontiers alongside BGB to stop influx of ethnic Muslim minority Rohingyas from their home in Buddhist dominated Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

He said the meeting decided to return the Rohingyas with a “humane” approach through motivation as Bangladesh was unable to offer them refuge as “we are already overburdened with thousands of Rohingya’s by now who caused us massive social, economic and environmental problems”.

Police, meanwhile, issued a stern warning against offering assistance for Rohingya influx but officials familiar with the situation said several Myanmar nationals who penetrated Bangladesh on the face the violence in their homeland sustaining injuries were being treated at different medical facilities.

An official familiar with the situation said two of the wounded Rohingyas sustaining fatal bullet injuries died in Bangladesh.

The foreign ministry statement said Zaman told the Myanmar envoy that Bangladesh had witnessed Rohingya influx due to an identical military operations in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on 09 October 2016 when some 85,000 of civilians crossed over to Bangladesh.

The Secretary informed that thousands of unarmed civilian including women, children and elderly people from the Rakhine State assembled close to the border and making attempts to enter Bangladesh.

“He expressed serious concern at the possibility of recurrence of such a situation as Bangladesh already hosts about four hundred thousand of Myanmar nationals,” the statement read.

The international wire services, meanwhile, reported that gun shots rang out across northern Rakhine State this afternoon while Myanmar army said the death toll from attacks staged by “Rohingya insurgents” on Friday climbed to 89, including 77 insurgents and 12 members of the security forces.

The reports said Rakhine Buddhists also armed themselves with knives and sticks as tension soared in a town that has repeatedly been the epicentre of religious violence since 2012.

The Rakhine State in western Myanmar is home to more than a million Rohingya Muslims while tensions with the Buddhist population rumbled for years, and tens of thousands of Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, accusing Myanmar authorities of ethnic persecution.

Hundreds of men from the persecuted Rohingya group appeared to have organised under the banner of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which claims to be leading the insurgency that has scorched the area since October last year.

The UN believes the military crackdown may have amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya while Myanmar denied the allegations which included killings of civilians and mass rape.

Myanmar’s national leader Aung San Suu Kyi condemned Friday’s early morning raids – in which Rohingya insurgents reportedly wielding guns, sticks and home-made bombs assaulted 30 police stations and an army base.

But the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s 16-month old administration was exposed to massive international criticism in view of the treatment of approximately1.1 million Rohingyas while she was accused of not speaking out for the persecuted minority and of defending the army’s brutal counter-offensive after the October attacks.