Myanmar patrol operations worry Bangladesh, which responded by deploying more forces. The fear is that a new exodus of Rohingya refugees could be triggered. Prime Minister Hasina raised the issue at the UN, asking for the intervention of the international community.
According to Myanmar’s security sources, who declined to give their names, Bangladesh has significantly increased its troop presence and weapons on the border since last Friday, including 155mm rocket launchers, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles and anti-aircraft machine guns.
Myanmar’s military spokesman, Major General Zaw Min Tun, explained that Myanmar’s armed forces were taking action to maintain border security without negatively affecting bilateral military relations.
Myanmar’s military recently beefed up security along the border, alleging increased activities by the Arakan Army (AA) and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA)., which supposedly caused victims even among children.
Bangladesh has recently made a formal protest, fearing that the movement of Myanmar troops – by land and sea, with coastal patrols – could trigger a new mass flight of the Rohingya Muslims.
Senior Myanmar military officials responded saying that the security operations did not entail the deployment of extra troops, nor any offensives on the ground.
“There have been increased activities by the AA and ARSA along the border in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships. While we have stepped up security measures, [Bangladesh] has openly raised objections. And it has also filed a complaint with the UN. So we have suspicions that it has a hidden agenda,” Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned the Bangladeshi ambassador in Yangon to say the military operations were not intended to threaten Bangladesh but are part of the normal security operations in Rakhine State.
Rakhine affairs analyst U Maung Maun Soe said that “Bangladesh might be concerned that more Muslim refugees will flee due to the activities.”
Speaking before the UN General Assembly, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday urged the global community to play a more "effective role" in finding a solution.
She stressed that her country is providing temporary shelter to 1.1 million refugees, noting that “More than three years have elapsed. Regrettably, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated.”
In the summer of 2017, ARSA launched a series of attacks on military and government posts, killing 12 people.
Myanmar’s reaction was swift and very harsh, causing the flight of 730,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees, a humanitarian and health tragedy of vast proportions that is still unresolved.
For Myanmar, the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.