Bangladesh and Burma hold talks on border

Oct 22, 2009 (DVB), Government officials from Bangladesh and Burma met on the Burmese side of the border yesterday in a bid to ease rising tension between the two countries, local sources said.

The talks focused on the controversial border fence being built by the Burmese, aimed at stemming cross-border smuggling and the movement of refugees. Burma has been accused of breaching the agreed demarcation of the fence by 150 feet.

"The Burmese delegation responded to the issue by saying that they will consider moving the construction backward if Bangladesh can show them proper documents," said a border-based analyst, Khaing Pray Thein.

The 11-member Burmese delegation met with members of the frontier Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) paramilitary force in Maungdaw, in Arakan state.

Construction of the fence began in February but was suspended in April following a meeting between the Burmese border security force, Nasaka, and the BDR.

The project resumed however last month, and coincided with a military build-up on the Burmese side of the border. The move triggered a reaction from Dhaka, which reportedly sent three fresh BDR battalions to the area.

According to Khaing Pray Thein, the Burmese delegation yesterday denied that the troop build-up was a sign of aggression and said that they were only there for the fence construction and "didn't mean any threat".

The issue of the Bangladeshi fishermen allegedly detained by Nasaka last week was also raised at the meeting.

The Narinjara news agency last week quoted a Bangladeshi official who said that Nasaka personnel had crossed over to the Bangladeshi side of the Naff river and abducted the fishermen.

The two countries have also lined up their navies in the Bay of Bengal, following a fiery dispute over rights to explore offshore gas blocks. The matter has been brought before United Nations arbitration.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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