Myanmar has deployed more than 2,500 additional troops since Saturday in camps along the Rakhine and Chin states’ border in western Myanmar, bordering Bangladesh.
Additional troops and weapons were suddenly deployed under the pretext of “suppressing” the Arakan Army, declared a “terrorist group” by the Myanmar government, according to an intelligence agency of Bangladesh.
Security sources said two meetings regarding the security of Rakhine were held on Friday and Saturday (September 11-12) in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, led by a senior general.
The meetings accused the Arakan Army in Rakhine of terrorist activities. Officials present at the meeting decided to deploy additional troops as part of their action against the Arakan Army.
Officers from the three Myanmar armed forces — army, navy, and air force — were present at the meetings.
Bangladesh is concerned about the sudden deployment of armed forces in the border camps of the neighbouring country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already summoned the Myanmar ambassador in Dhaka regarding the newly deployed additional troops.
Security officials believe that in the name of suppressing the Arakan Army, Myanmar forces could carry out new killings and torture in Rakhine or Chin state, as they did in 2017.
There may be a conspiracy to force the Rohingyas or people of other ethnicities of that country into Bangladesh again, which could be a security risk for the country, they said.
Security analyst Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid told : “The Myanmar government may have thought that the overall situation there would be calm after the Rohingyas were forced out.”
But now they are facing various other problems, including separatist movements of various groups, he continued.
“Their [Myanmar’s] armed forces have suffered casualties because of them [separatist groups]. To control them, Myanmar could suddenly increase its military presence,” he added.
“Myanmar is not eager to take back the huge number of Rohingya people. Due to international pressure, the Myanmar government — which is controlled by the military behind the scenes — may resort to malicious methods to suppress terrorism,” The security expert also said.
“There is also tension in their politics owing to efforts to approve legislation for reducing the power of the military. The military presence may have been increased to prevent that. Whatever the reason, we have to be prepared and keep an eye on Myanmar as our neighbouring country.”
According to a security source in Bangladesh, before the deployment of the new troops, there were a total of 46 battalions under the commander of west Myanmar in 13 townships and sadars of Rakhine and Chin states.
Meanwhile, locals and Rohingyas living in a camp near the Tambru border area in Naikhonchhari, Bandarban told Bangla Tribune that they had noticed that vehicular movement had increased in the border area on the Myanmar side in the last few days.
“I don’t know whether they were police or army, but the people in the [Rohingya] camp are afraid,” a Rohingya camp leader said.
What the officials are saying
Asked about the matter, Lt Col Ali Haider Azad Ahmed, commander of 34 Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Battalion in Cox’s Bazar, told: “We have increased our patrol activities, and we are keeping everyone at the border alert.
“Any incident, including intrusions, will be strictly prevented. We have learned about suspicious movement and the presence of troops on the other [Myanmar] side.”
On condition of anonymity, a government official said perhaps the troops were deployed to ensure that there is no chaos ahead of the election in Myanmar, which is scheduled for October.
“Nevertheless, we are keeping a close watch on the border,” the official added.
Teknaf 2 BGB Captain Lt Col Md Faisal Hassan Khan said: “I have learnt about the army mobilization inside Myanmar and their suspicious activities. However, the matter of increased army patrols at the border is untrue. We are alert at the border.”
Myanmar deployed military troops along its border after it launched a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state in 2017, forcing over 730,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is now home to more than a million Myanmar nationals, who live in overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.