The Bangladesh and Myanmar border police forces have agreed to work jointly to prevent illegal crossings by militants along the countries’ common frontier, the chief of the Bangladeshi border guard said Tuesday.
The official did not name any of the “terrorist” groups that would be the focus of joint patrols on the border, but both Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and Arakan Army (AA) insurgents reportedly have been operating along or near the Burmese-Bangladesh frontier lately.
On Nov. 14, a Bangladesh military intelligence officer was hacked to death by suspected ARSA insurgents during a counter-narcotics operation near a Rohingya refugee camp in the no-man’s land between the neighboring countries, officials said.
The two sides reached the agreement on Sunday after senior officials wrapped up a five-day conference in Naypyidaw, Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed, director general of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), told a news conference in Dhaka on Tuesday.
“Both sides agreed to work together against various terrorist groups along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. In this regard, Bangladesh emphasizes a ‘zero tolerance’ policy,” Ahmed said, according to a transcript of the news conference.
“Recognizing the threat of terrorists and terrorist groups both sides agreed to cooperate with each other actively and effectively to prevent illegal border crossings.”
The agreement between the two border police agencies also followed allegations by Dhaka about incidents of shelling and firing across the border into Bangladesh in August and September, amid nearby fighting between Burmese junta forces and separatist AA rebels.
On Saturday, a day before the talks ended, Myanmar officials released a news release about the conference. It said the meeting focused on bilateral cooperation for security and the rule of law, joint patrols along the border, prevention of transnational crimes, as well as combating terrorism and drug smuggling.
“Both sides agreed to share real-time information regarding the existence of miscreants/terrorist groups if noticed on either side of the bordering areas,” said media notes on the conference headed by Maj. Gen. Aung Naing Thu, deputy chief of the Myanmar police force.
Ahmed held the news conference in Dhaka a day after the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army announced a ceasefire following four months of intense fighting in Rakhine, a state in the western part of Myanmar that borders Bangladesh.
Despite the ceasefire, there were no immediate plans for troop withdrawals or changes in political policy, official sources told RFA Burmese.
The ceasefire, brokered by Yohei Sasakawa, the chairman of Japan’s Nippon Foundation and the Japanese government’s special representative for national reconciliation in Myanmar, is the latest detente between the two sides in their decade-long, on-again, off-again conflict.
Arakan Army spokesman Khine Thu Kha told RFA that the agreement to temporarily end hostilities was reached on humanitarian grounds, citing the urgent need for supplies that he said was the result of regular military shelling and junta roadblocks on key transportation routes.
In Dhaka, diplomatic and security analysts said the Myanmar-Bangladesh agreement marked an apparent shift from Myanmar’s hardline stance on Bangladesh, adding that international pressure may have persuaded the Burmese military government to make a neighborly gesture toward Bangladesh.
Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, a former Bangladesh foreign secretary, said the agreement was a positive step for bilateral relations, but noted that another issue continued to affect such efforts.
“The two forces have been holding talks after a series of unwanted incidents of shelling in Bangladesh territory and airspace violation by Myanmar military aircraft. It is a good development,” Chowdhury told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated news service.
“The repatriation of Rohingya refugees is the issue that could stand in the way of normalizing Bangladesh’s bilateral relations with Myanmar,” he said.
Earlier this year, Myanmar artillery struck Bangladesh territory several times as junta troops carried out military operations against Arakan Army rebels inside Rakhine. The separatist group has been waging a war for a separate Arakan homeland.
The actions continued even after Bangladesh officials summoned the Myanmar ambassador in Dhaka on at least three occasions in late August and early September to file protest notes, officials said.
“Myanmar forces have ceased such provocative actions, possibly owing to China’s influence. The Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh several times stated that they had asked Myanmar not to take any provocative actions and it is well known that Beijing has leverage over Myanmar,” Chowdhury said.
Meanwhile, Myanmar officials in September summoned the Bangladesh ambassador to protest alleged terrorist actions launched from Bangladesh territory, according to local media reports.
“Myanmar alleges that the Arakan Army and ARSA have been active in Bangladesh territory. They want Bangladesh’s support to eliminate the forces,” Chowdhury said.
Retired Maj. Gen. Abdur Rashid, a security analyst, said the agreement would help build confidence between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“Sharing of real-time information on terrorists’ movements, smuggling of illegal narcotics and arms could curb the menace to a great extent,” he told BenarNews.
“We have two neighbors: India and Myanmar. We have very good coordination between the border guard forces of Bangladesh and India but we do not have such good coordination with Myanmar.”
BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.