Over the weekend, Myanmar and Bangladesh held the latest iteration of a senior-level border conference. The conference put the spotlight on ongoing efforts by both countries to manage the strained security ties between them amid shared challenges and bilateral differences.
Myanmar and Bangladesh, two neighboring countries that share a large 271 kilometer border with each other, have long had a complicated security relationship after diplomatic ties were established in 1972, with periods of conflict and disputes over their borders ranging from levels of military presence to refugees which have intensified since the outbreak of the Rohingya crisis in recent years. Yet the two countries nonetheless continue to interact through a series of mechanisms they have established for managing security ties.
Among the interactions that both sides have had is a senior-level border conference between the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). The last iteration of the meeting had been held in April 2019, and officially, both sides said they had discussed various issues, including cracking down on border crimes, holding more interactions between border liaison offices, and building greater trust and cooperation.
Over the weekend, the security aspect of the relationship was in the spotlight with the seventh iteration of the conference held between the two sides. The engagement, initially set for October 2019, was finally held on Sunday after some indications of discontent in relations between the two countries, including construction and fortification of structures along the border by both countries last year without prior notification.
Per local media reports in Bangladesh, the seventh iteration of the border conference was led by Myanmar’s Chief of Police General Staff Brig. Gen. Myo Than and the head of BGB Major General Md Shafeenul Islam. An official BGB statement also indicated that the conference was was aimed at addressing a range of issues, including the entry of Myanmar citizens into Bangladesh, transnational crimes such as drug smuggling and trafficking along with sensitive issues such as controlling firing in border areas and exchanging information for border safety.
To be sure, engagements such as this border conference, which is expected to wrap up on January 9, ought not to distract from the wider state of the bilateral relationship and the outstanding issues both sides have, be it the Rohingya issue or uncertainty over border disputes. Nonetheless, the outcomes from this conference as well as other related interactions will continue to be important to watch in order to understand how both sides are managing their ties.