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Myanmar troops seek refuge in Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-Junta Rebels

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Myanmar troops seek refuge in Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-Junta Rebels

Myanmar troops seek refuge in Bangladesh amid clashes with anti-Junta Rebels

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  • Myanmar troops have deserted their posts and crossed into Bangladesh since February.
  • The escalation of fighting in Rakhine State has curtailed Bangladesh’s trade with Myanmar,
  • It caused a significant loss for Bangladesh as it imported a significant amount of agricultural produce from Myanmar.
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On Wednesday, Bangladeshi border agency officials reported that hundreds of Myanmar troops have deserted their posts and crossed into Bangladesh since February amid escalating clashes between the junta and an ethnic minority army. The fighting between Myanmar’s military-controlled government forces and insurgents in Rakhine and Chin states commenced in late October 2023, featuring a multi-pronged offensive against the junta, which seized control of the country in early 2021.

Since then, the ethnic Rakhine Arakan Army has engaged in fierce battles against the Myanmar Armed Forces and border police in the two states bordering Bangladesh.

“Between last night and Wednesday morning, 46 members of Border Guard Police of Myanmar took shelter in Bangladesh through different borders of Jamchari, Rejupara, and Baishfari under Bandarban district,” Shariful Islam, spokesperson of the Border Guard Bangladesh, told the media.

“With these, a total of 260 BGP members are currently in Bangladesh.”

Authorities observed heavy gunfire on the Myanmar side of the border during the latest intrusion into Bangladeshi territory.

“Our border guard members are on high alert … The battle situation is continuing between the Myanmar army, Arakan Army, RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization), and other separatist groups on the other side of the border in Myanmar,” said Lt. Col. Mohiuddin Ahmed, commanding officer of the BGB on Teknaf border, in Cox’s Bazar district.

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“Since last February, Myanmar border guard members started fleeing into Bangladesh. When they take refuge in Bangladesh, first we disarm them and then shelter them in a safe place arranged by the district administration.”

Bangladeshi officials then repatriated the troops.

“Our top officials, home ministry, and foreign ministry contact Myanmar for the return of their border guard members,” Ahmed said. “Earlier, more than 300 Myanmar BGP members were handed over to Myanmar.”

According to Maj. Gen. (rtd) Shahidul Haque, a security analyst who served as military attache at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Myanmar, the insurgents, allied with Myanmar’s exiled National Unity Government, have captured a significant chunk of the territory neighboring Bangladesh but are still far from controlling it.

“The Arakan Army still hasn’t started their activities in some strategic cities of Rakhine like Sittwe, which is the capital of Arakan. Another city named Kyaukphyu hosts huge Chinese investments. If the Arakan Army takes over the control of Sittwe, then control of northern Rakhine will be under the Arakan Army,” he told the news.

Myanmar junta forces have currently imposed a curfew in Sittwe, while the escalation of fighting in Rakhine State has curtailed Bangladesh’s trade with Myanmar.

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“Our official trade with Myanmar has fallen drastically as the Myanmar government officials who were in charge of different port operations have fled from those areas,” Haque said.

“It’s a huge loss for Bangladesh as we imported a significant amount of agricultural produce from Myanmar.”

The intensifying fighting was also likely to prompt a new wave of Rohingya to seek shelter in Bangladesh, which was already facing a refugee crisis.

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