Bangladesh fears Myanmar may attack their island in Bengal bay


Dhaka : Bangladesh, which is currently engaged in a dispute with Myanmar over border fencing, fears that Yangon may attack its St. Martin’s Island in the Bay of Bengal, a media report said.

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Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), which guards the land border, has identified the St Martin’s Island as the “probable main target” of Myanmar and has asked the government to immediately strengthen its defence by constructing aircraft landing zones and concrete bunkers.

This is contained in a “strategic proposal” that came in the wake of constant military build-up and intimidation by Myanmar, The Daily Star newspaper said.

The St Martin’s Island, the only coral island of the country and the main attraction for local and foreign tourists for its panoramic beauty and pristine marine life, is under the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh Coastguards.

The island, which is located in a mineral rich region in the Bay of Bengal, is 8 km west of Myanmar coast.

The BDR has submitted its proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Office, the navy and air force headquarters and the director general of Coastguards.

It has also urged the government to increase defence capability of land and sea borders to “repulse any possible aggression by the neighbouring country”.

Both Dhaka and Yangon have moved in more forces along the border and deployed naval ships and fighter jets in the last ten days since Yangon erected a barbed wire fence and allegedly pushed in thousands of Rohingya Muslim tribals who inhabit the western flank of the Arakan ranges close to the Bangladesh border.

Bangladesh, which has over 4,300 km border with India, shares 300 km of its border with Myanmar.

Marking a 148 km stretch of border with Myanmar and India as ‘unguarded’, the border force has suggested setting up temporary frontier camps until a new battalion is set up in Ali Kadam area as per the BDR restructuring proposal.

The restructuring proposal has been made as part of the changes Dhaka wants to effect after sections of the border guards staged a mutiny in February in which 74 people were killed.

It has asked the government to arm the paramilitary force with more manpower and modern military equipment, the report said.

The border guards say that the Myanmar military often crosses the zero line at the Bandarban frontier and carry out operations to combat various separatist organisations. Apart from erecting barbed-wire fences and unilaterally mobilising the army, the Myanmar authorities are forcing their nationals to enter Bangladesh territory.

A senior home ministry official Saturday said the Prime Minister’s Office is dealing with the “very sensitive and serious matter”, the newspaper said.