Bangladesh has launched a raid against Myanmar separatists following a gun battle between local forces and the Arakan Army, local media sources reported August 27.
The remote hills on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border have been home to a range of separatist groups from neighboring Myanmar for decades. The groups – including the Arakan Army which was formed in 2009 and fights for the independence of Arakan state – have long posed a problem for Bangladesh’s security forces along a poorly-policed border.
This particular raid comes after an attack by the Arakan Army on Bangladesh border forces in Thanchi in Bandarban. On Wednesday (August 26) morning at around 9:30am local time, members of the Arakan Army opened fire on a team of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) when they were on patrol with army members on a vessel. The incident came just a day after Bangladesh forces had seized 10 Arabian horses from Arakan Army men.
In response, BGB Director General Maj. Gen Aziz said that Bangladesh had immediately sent in reinforcements – including troops and a jet of the Bangladesh Air Force – in a gun battle that continued until around 3:00pm.
After the separatists retreated, Aziz said the BGB and army members had launched a combined operation against them, who he said were in remote bordering forests in Bandarban. He said that additional BGB and army troop reinforcements would subsequently be under way.
“We are sending more force[s] there and will launch an all-out operation tomorrow [Thursday] to flush them out,” Aziz told The Daily Star over the phone.
In addition, he also said that Bangladesh had contacted the Myanmar Army through their embassy in Dhaka and requested that they seal their side of the border so the separatists would not have an opportunity to escape.
“We have requested the Myanmar army to seal the border on their side so that they [Myanmar Army] could take action against the separatists during the drive,” he reportedly said, adding that Naypyidaw had assured Dhaka of what The Daily Star described as “all sorts of help.”
The Army has also claimed that it has nabbed a member of the Arakan Army during a raid between Wednesday night and Thursday morning in Rangamati district. Major Taslim of the 305th Infantry Brigade told bdnews24 via email that he was found with Arakan Army uniforms, laptops, digital cameras, motorcycles and two horses in his possession. The rebels are also believed to have sustained between eight to 20 casualties, based on preliminary eyewitness reports.
The Arakan Army, for its part, has claimed that the whole situation has been a product of misunderstanding which it blames on BGB officers. Lunn Shwe of the Arakan Army told Adil Sakhawat of Dhaka Tribune that the initial fighting took place when the BGB officers opened fire despite Arakan Army members trying to explain that they were not enemies of Bangladesh when they encountered them.
“We do not have any policy [or] intentions to have this kind of fight with our neighbors but it was just a horrible misunderstanding and a deplorable incident. From our side we shall try to solve this through peaceful means,” he said.