Burma suspends border fence construction

Apr 27, 2009 (DVB), Burma has temporarily suspended construction of a controversial fence along the Burma-Bangladesh border following a meeting between border officials from the two countries.

The fence is aimed at stemming the flow of illegal migrants into Burma, but the proposals have caused considerable tension between the two governments.

Locals living on the Burmese side of the border have said the fence will impact on those reliant on Bangladeshi services, such as medicine and food.

Bangladesh has claimed the fence lies too close to the border, and has reacted to the increasing numbers of Burmese troops being stationed along its route.

However, a meeting between the Burmese border security force, Nasaka, and their counterparts in Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), resulted in the postponement of construction, although exact reasons as to why are unclear.

"At the meeting, the Burmese side said they were acting in accordance with the bilateral agreement concerning the common border signed in 1998," said Khaing Pyi Thein, an Arakan national living on the Bangladesh side of the border.

Following a request by the BDR, however, Burma agreed to suspend its construction, said Khaing Pyi Thein. He added however that there had been no signs of a halt in military preparations by Burma.

"The Burmese side has deployed five infantry regiments, several armoured cars, and an artillery regiment along the Mayu Mountain Range," he said.

"These units are on highest alert now."

Similarly, on the Bangladesh side of the border, BDR units have assembled in the area and are watching the Burmese side closely.

Bangladesh and Burma came close to conflict last November after Burma began exploring for oil in disputed waters. Bangladesh sent its navy to the location before Burma withdrew its ships.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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