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Myanmar-Bangladesh Border Crisis: Connecting the Hidden Dots

By M.S. Anwar

Opinion and Analysis l Geopolitical Perspective

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

 Since Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) Killed a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGP), Tension along the border has reached a new peak. Pic: BGB bringing back the dead body of the killed trooper.
Since Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) Killed a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGP), Tension along the border has reached a new peak. Pic: BGB bringing back the dead body of the killed trooper.

Myanmar Regime has done it again. On May 28, 2014, Myanmar Border Security Police (BGP) ambushed a trooper of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Nayek Md Mizanur Rahman (a corporal), between border posts 52 and 53, some 30 Miles from Maungdaw Township.  And then, BGP reportedly intruded into Bangladesh territory to take his dead body away. On Friday evening, BGP attacked another BGB team there triggering a gun battle. Myanmar returned the dead body of the BGB trooper to Bangladesh on Saturday, 31st May 2014.

However, the problem doesn’t end here. The Myanmar-Bangladesh Border Tension has reached yet another high point after the November 2008 naval stand-off over Daewoo’s exploration of disputed waters in Bay of Bengal. Since then, skirmishes between BGP and BGB have been still going on though it was declared that the issue was resolved. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have been reinforcing their respective armed forces and naval forces along the border. What has caused this border crisis? Is it a random crisis or well-planned one? Who gains and who losses?

1-     Rohingya Genocide

Rohingya is an indigenous Muslim minority of Indian Descends living in Arakan (now called Rakhine) state of Burma (now called Myanmar). According to United Nations, Rohingya people is ‘‘One of the World’s most persecuted people.’’ It’s fact that they have been victims of institutionalized persecution in Myanmar for decades. Came June 2012, Myanmar government sponsored Rakhine extremists have triggered mass violence against Rohingyas. It has been going on until today.

Thousands of Rohingyas have been killed. More than 140,000 people have been internally displaced. Thousands of women were raped. Freedom of religion has been stripped off. The rest is known to the world. In short, brutalities against Rohingyas have been beyond imagination. It’s Genocide, no doubt. But what has the genocide of Rohingyas to do with Myanmar-Bangladesh Border Tension? Where does Rohingya stand in Myanmar Politics and the government’s policy?

2-     Rakhine (Magh) and their Demand for a Militia Style Armed Force

It’s now an open secret that Rakhines want an independent nation by separating Arakan state from mainland Myanmar, a nation that will exclusively be formed with only Rakhine Buddhists. And Rohingya has become a barrier to their goal. Hence, they cleanse Rohingyas. For that, they need policy, plans and implementation.

Rakhine political parties, armed forces, civil societies and others together held a Rakhine National Conference in Kyaukphyu Township between 28th April and 2nd May 2014. They unanimously came out with a resolution to demand Myanmar Regime to form ‘a Militia Style Armed Force’ with only Rakhine Nationals to guard “the Western Gate.” According to Rakhine politicians, if they have legalized militia along the Bangladesh Border, they can prevent

1)       national threats posed by (so-called) illegal migrations of Bengali people into Arakan

2)       (so-called) process of Islamization of Arakan and eventually the whole Myanmar.

To make the demand seem reasonable and vital, Rakhine politicians started spreading propaganda of RSO intrusion into Arakan. Reports have been that Militants of Arakan (Rakhine) Liberation Army (ALA) disguised in Islamic Dress to look like so-called RSO militants started ambushing Myanmar Border Guards post May 15, 2014. This RSO propaganda has been lately drawing attention of majority Burman Buddhists. And of course, their sympathy and support as well since Rakhine politicians like to shout in the name of Buddhism and National Sovereignty.


3-     Power Struggle: India-US and Myanmar Regime-China

A Regional Power India and its strategic partner, United States (US), have as much interest as China has to control over resources blessed and strategically located Arakan state. India-US wants to encircle China from all sides, while China wants to have free access to Indian Ocean. China seems it no longer wants to use its traditional sea-route via Malacca Strait, a route which is very costly, time-consuming and on which it (China) needs to rely on US Naval bases in Singapore and Philippines as Chinese ships and cargos carry oil, gas and other forms of energy from Middle East and Africa.

Therefore, in a struggle to control Arakan, China seems to have finally won the game as it has stronger ties with Myanmar Military. China has won the race for Kyuakphyu Gas Project and opportunities to explore more regions onshore and offshore Arakan for energy resources. Myanmar Regime has backed out of the promise given to India for Multibillion-Dollar Kaladan Project. Hence, India-US has two options:

1)       Either pull Myanmar Military out of China’s Circle

2)       Or Put Rakhine proxy government into Power and then control the region.

For India-US, the latter option seems more viable as the former option is almost impossible for them. Hence, India-US strongly back Rakhines’ movement for an independent.

Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and its armed wing, Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) are based in India and its subordinate nation, Bangladesh. Rakhine terrorists have been smuggling weapons into Arakan for months crossing Bangladesh-Myanmar Border without any restriction. Bangladesh allows Rakhines to smuggle weapons to please India and Arakan state, of course, under the administration of Rakhine politicians with vested interest.

India recently had newly elected Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Mr. Modi, though he is called a fascist, racist and fanatic, is known as a man of action. Whether good or bad, he acts more than he talks. Moreover, he is said to have changed some major foreign policies that include preventing inclining Regional Geopolitical Paradigm towards China. Therefore, it is time for China to launch a pre-emptive strike before India can do anything to grow its influence in Arakan. Similarly, it is time for Myanmar Regime to stop Rakhine politicians demanding ‘a Militia with Rakhine Nationals.’

Thus, Myanmar Regime backed by China purposely created Border Crisis with Bangladesh in order to have an upper hand in the power struggle and escape from unfolding domestic political crises.


4-     Bottom Line

1-      By creating the Border Crisis, Myanmar Regime has again forced its people to perceive that only and only Military can protect a country from a foreign threat.

2-      While a Rakhine Militia may only protect Rakhines from so-called RSO threat, overall, Rakhine Militia can’t face off with a national armed force like Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). To face off with BGB, a national armed force like BGP is required. Therefore, Rakhines have to abandon their demand for a Rakhine Militia.

3-      Rather, Rakhines will have to support Myanmar Armed Force against Bangladesh Forces. If they fail to do it, they will be perceived as anti-national by majority Burman Buddhists and lose their sympathy and supports as well.

4-      Rakhines failing to form a Militia means there is another lag in their movement for a separate nation. It, in turns, means that it will take India-US many more years to defeat China in the region.

5-      Myanmar Military can freely increase the budget for the military in the name of national security, otherwise that won’t be so-easy especially at current political juncture in Myanmar.

6-      It is perfect way to divert people’s attention from a campaign launched by National League for Democracy (NLD) and 88-Generation Students to amend the article 436 of 2008 Constitution.

7-      What else? It will give Myanmar Military another license to kill even more Rohingyas. Military can use Rohingyas as porters and as SHIELD in the front line in case that a war between Myanmar and Bangladesh breaks out.

8-      If they Rohingya refuse to go with Military as porters, they will be branded as traitors. Then, Myanmar Regime can accuse them of having connections with RSO and supporting Bangladesh’s armed forces instead of Myanmar’s.

9-      Myanmar can weaken Rohingyas even more. It will be easier for Myanmar regime to use Rohingyas as political escape goats in time to come.

 Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) along the border.
Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) along the border.

*RSO= Rohingya Solidarity Organization RSO is a former Rohingya armed group that has been disbanded long ago. Bangladesh government has officially announced that it is no longer existent today. Now, Rakhine extremists and Myanmar Government have started to spread propaganda that RSO (Rohingya Solidarity Organization), is attacking Myanmar Border Guards and trying to invade Myanmar so as to be able to kill even more innocent Rohingyas. 

M.S. Anwar is a student, analyst and reporter on Arakan. Opinions expressed are solely of his own. It doesn’t necessarily reflect our editorial policy. He can be reached at: