Bangladesh deploys border guards to islet near Myanmar
'Myanmar has claimed the island as their territory, so it’s our normal duty to boost up security there,' says Bangladesh
Bangladesh deployed heavily-armed border forces to its southeastern border islet and tourist hub, Saint Martin’s Island, once again after 22 years, according to government sources.
"Either consciously or mistakenly, Myanmar has claimed the island as their territory, so it’s our normal duty to boost up security there," Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, Bangladesh’s home minister, told Anadolu Agency on late Sunday.
He added members of regular forces including Coast Guard and police are already there and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) members have been added.
"It is not actually new, BGB was also on duty in that island earlier," the minister said, adding that Myanmar forces are on patrolling within their territory across the island.
Citing the island as popular for both local and foreign tourists, the minister told safety and security of it is very significant to Bangladesh.
Kamal also slammed Myanmar’s repeated attempts to show the Island as their territory through inclusion of it in the map by the south-east Asian country.
Earlier, on Sunday evening a press release issued by BGB said: "As per government directive, BGB members with heavy weapons have been redeployed at southern Saint Martin’s Island since today [April 7]."
Bangladesh’s para-military forces had also been deployed in this island, located in the Bay of Bengal near Myanmar, till 1997, the press statement said, adding that the purpose of the new deployment was to increase security at the tourist zone and curb drug-peddling based on the bordering island.
"Adequate BGB members have been deployed in the island at the directive of the government. The number will be increased further," private news agency United News Bangladesh quoted Mohammad Mohsin Reza, BGB Public Relations Officer, as saying.
The statement, however, came in the wake of repeated tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar as a map in one of the websites of the Myanmar government showed the island as part of its territory at least two times in the last six months.
Last February, Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry summoned Aung Kyaw Moe, the chargé d'affaires of the Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka, and strongly protested Myanmar’s claim.
Prior to that on Oct. 6, 2018, a Myanmar government website repeated the claim.
In the face of strong protest from Bangladesh, both times Myanmar corrected the map with clarification that it was done mistakenly.
Bangladesh is now passing through a crucial time with Myanmar over repatriation of more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees living in squalid makeshifts in its south.