Bangladesh sends troops to Burma border

Oct 5, 2009 (DVB), Bangladesh's border patrol army has sent troops to its border with Burma after the Burmese government resumed construction of its controversial border fence.

The move comes amid rising tension between the two countries, with a recent flare-up in maritime disputes over the contested Bay of Bengal gas fields.

Burma in April suspended work on the fence following a meeting between the Burmese border security force, Nasaka, and their counterparts in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).

"Burmese authorities are restarting the fence construction as planned upon re-entering the dry season, after taking a break during the rainy season," said Khaing Pray Thein, an Burma observer based on the Bangladesh-Burma border.

Some BDR companies were also withdrawn in late February this year after an attempted mutiny occurred.

Following the resumption of building, the BDR reportedly sent three fresh battalions to the border last week.

Khaing Pray Thein added that the construction of a Bangladeshi naval base near the Naf river, adjacent to Burma, has further exacerbated tension.

A maritime dispute in November 2008 threatened to draw the two countries into conflict, with land and naval forces lining up within striking distance of one another. The Burmese navy was earlier this year accused of straying into Bangladeshi waters.

Bangladesh recently granted rights to the US company ConcoPhilips and Ireland's Tullow to explore for gas in its waters. They have been expressly forbidden by Dhaka from exploring in fields adjacent to Burmese waters.

Bangladesh has remained vigilant on its border due to influxes of Burmese produced narcotics, particularly methamphetamines, and the ongoing refugee crisis.

A Bangladeshi official recently stated that as many as 400,000 Rohingya refugees could be living illegally in the country, having fled alleged racial persecution and poverty in their native Burma.

Meanwhile there are approximately 28,000 said to be living officially in camps inside Bangladesh.

The issue of their plight was said to have been brought up at recent talks between the US and the Burmese government, with the Bangladesh government law ministry providing statistics to the US.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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