Watch out for Bangladesh and Thailand: Military commander

by Mungpi
Friday, 30 January 2009 21:07

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Burma’s military generals in a secret meeting warned commanders and officers to beware of Bangladesh in the wake of a maritime dispute between the two countries in November.

Maj-Gen Soe Win, commander of the Northern Military Command, during a meeting held recently said that Burma considers Bangladesh a hostile neighbour, and warned commanders and officers to keep an eye on Bangladesh’s military movements.

The minutes of the meeting held in Naypyitaw, a copy of which is in Mizzima’s possession, said while Burma was exploring for gas in its territorial waters and in its economic zone, Bangladesh had strongly opposed the activity that led Burma to withdraw.

“In other words,” Soe Win said, “Bangladesh is provoking us.” Soe Win also accused the United States, which has imposed financial sanctions on the generals, of backing and inciting Bangladesh to oppose the exploration.

Besides, Soe Win, voicing the general’s paranoia, said the army has received information of movements of US Navy fleets using Thai and Bangladesh waters as a base.

“Therefore, all must understand that there is a likelihood of foreign invasion and we must carefully observe military movements,” Soe Win added.

During the meeting, attended by several field officers and commanders, Soe Win reminded them of the need to maintain vigilance along the border areas as a preparation for any possible intrusion from foreign countries.

Though there seems to be no other verification for Soe Win’s fears, the Generals, however, are reportedly intensifying military presence in Arakan state, which borders Bangladesh.

According to a Bangladesh-Burma border based Burmese journalist, the junta is stepping up its military presence, particularly the artillery battalion in the border township of Maungdaw in Burma’s western Arakan state.

“The junta is shifting several of its battalions to a new military base in Maungdaw. Particularly the artillery battalion,” the journalist, who requested not to be named, told Mizzima.

The journalist, citing local sources in the area said the Burmese Army is being stationed in a long stretch of valley behind the cover of mountains to conceal their presence.

“It looks to me that the army is preparing for an impending war or some kind of conflict. But we don’t know against whom,” he added.

Similarly, an Editor of the Dhaka based Burmese News Agency Narinjara told Mizzima that in recent months, at least 13 battalions of the Burmese Army have moved up to northern Arakan state in Maungdaw Township.

“We also can confirmed that the army is building an airbase in Maungdaw Township,” Narinjara’s editor Khaing Mrat Kyaw said.

He added that Burma’s military leaders including Vice Snr. Gen. Maung Aye, the junta’s second strongman, and Prime Minister Thein Sein have paid visits to Arakan state in recent weeks to check on the progress.

“Obviously it is some kind of preparation. And I think the junta wants to make a come back in the Bay of Bengal to continue the gas exploration,” Khaing Mrat Kyaw said.

“They seem to be really sore with Bangladesh over the last dispute,” Khaing Mrat Kyaw remarked.

In early November, Bangladesh and Burma had a face off, when Bangladesh objected to the exploration work of a South Korean company Daewoo, which was accompanied by Burmese naval vessels in the Bay of Bengal.

Bangladesh said the block in which the Burmese vessel and Daewoo were test drilling comes under its maritime boundary and immediately sent two Navy vessels to the spot.

Burmese generals, though saying that the area belongs to the Burmese economic zone, later moved out of the area.

During the stand off Bangladesh deployed two naval vessels in the Bay of Bengal and reinforced its border security, but Burma was unable to bring in timely reinforcements, Khaing Mrat Kyaw said.

“I think that’s why they are now building their bases and even constructing roads and railways, so that they can move their army anytime quickly,” Khaing Mrat Kyaw observed.

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