Thursday, November 30, 2023

Causes and reactions to the Myanmar border war

An almost full-scale civil war is currently raging in Myanmar. In this civil war, there are accusations of using excessive force against the army, and there are also accusations of human rights violations including killing and torture of civilians.

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Myanmar is behaving in a variety of ways that are causing tensions on the border. Mortar shells and even aircraft bombs fired by the Myanmar army, which is engaged in a war against the Arakan Army within its own border, have fallen within the borders of Bangladesh. Myanmar warplanes and helicopter gunships have entered the airspace of Bangladesh several times. At first the shell did not explode, but later there was a shell explosion inside Bangladesh and several people were injured including one killed. In other words, there is a war situation on the border. But whether Myanmar really wants a war with us or not, I will come to this later. Let us first discuss the effect of this war situation.

At the end of August, it had been five years since the influx of Rohingyas. Discussions were going on about Rohingya repatriation keeping the day in front. Not only that, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited the Rohingya camp in Cox’s Bazar during her visit to Bangladesh. In Dhaka, he spoke about the Rohingya during a briefing on his visit. Even a few days ago, at the beginning of the 51st session of the Human Rights Council, Acting High Commissioner Nada Al Nasheef reiterated Bachelet’s observations about the Rohingyas with the human rights situation in Bangladesh while presenting an updated picture of the global human rights situation.

Especially in the context of the discussion on the Rohingya problem in the United Nations Human Rights Commission, there is a possibility that the discussion on the Rohingya crisis, which has somehow been lost at the global level, will start again. Needless to say, this situation is not positive at all for Myanmar’s military government. So if there is a war situation on the Bangladesh border, all the discussion should be focused on that and it will take away all the discussion about Rohingya. There is also another important aspect of the Myanmar junta. Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory in the last national election in 2020. That election was free, fair and impartial.

Many of us know that in the previous government in Myanmar, Suu Kyi’s party was in power, but the country’s de facto ruler was the army chief. Myanmar’s latest constitutional amendment made the military constitutionally an organ of state lawmaking and administration. 25 percent members of Parliament are reserved for serving army officers.

That is, no civilian government can change the existing constitution without the support of the army. Not only that – the most important ministries like Home Affairs, Border Protection, Defense Ministry are directly under the military. Despite an all-powerful army de facto in power in Myanmar, a free, fair, impartial election was held in which the military-backed party fared badly. However, the military rejected the election results on allegations of rigging, and instead of handing over power to Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, they arrested many of her party leaders, including Suu Kyi. The army chief has absolute power of the state by issuing martial law.

But this time the army is not in a very good condition as before. The political parties opposed to the army came together and formed a government. The government has called on the international community to support it, to which many Western countries have responded. Not only that, they took up arms against the military.

An almost full-scale civil war is currently raging in Myanmar. In this civil war, there are accusations of using excessive force against the army, and there are also accusations of human rights violations including killing and torture of civilians. Due to this civil war, the Myanmar army is now under pressure from the international community, especially from the West. Creating a tense situation along the Bangladesh border will help divert the pressure from the Myanmar junta.

I would like to remind here that even when the Rohingyas arrived in 2017, Myanmar tried to create tension on the border by violating our border. That is, we have to make sure that – in no way can Myanmar benefit from doing the same thing over and over again. In that case we have to discuss what to do now. The foreign secretary and home minister of Bangladesh are saying that Myanmar is inciting us to a war, which we will not step into in any way. After saying that Bangladesh wants to resolve this border conflict through negotiations, in response to a journalist’s question, the interior minister said that if it does not work, they will go to the United Nations.

Russia and China have used veto power to protect the Myanmar junta whenever it has faced any problem at the UN on any issue, including the Rohingya crisis. Even when our Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed the representatives of every foreign mission working in Bangladesh on the border situation on September 20 regarding the crisis, there was no representative of China in this meeting even though there was a Russian representative. This one fact gives us an important clue to understand the root of this crisis.

And, ‘We will never go to war with Myanmar’ – I personally think this is wrong. Before explaining about this, let’s know a little about another related matter. There is a ranking of the military capabilities of the countries of the world based on the power of weapons other than nuclear weapons (conventional). Its name is ‘Global Firepower Index’.

The first name in this list is supposed to be America. It is followed by Russia, China, India, Japan and South Korea respectively. Bangladesh (46th) is slightly behind Myanmar (39th) in this index. Although military power is not the only determinant of victory or defeat when a war breaks out between two countries, we can keep in mind that Bangladesh-Myanmar military power is close.

As discussed earlier, Myanmar is currently in an extreme crisis internally in the military field. Therefore, it should not be his intention to start a full-scale war with Bangladesh, which can be understood with very simple knowledge. But they will want to maintain a tension on the border and sometimes increase it to save them from those dire problems.

If we believe that Myanmar’s thinking is correct, then we are sending a wrong message by saying that we will not engage in war with the country in any way. Bangladesh has a full-fledged regular military force, which on paper is equivalent to the Myanmar army. So why don’t we respond to their persuasion a little more strongly? Even if a country much stronger than us militarily poses a threat to our sovereignty, our military must be ready to respond and convey it to them.

An all-out war in the country’s current economic situation would no doubt exacerbate the crisis. But the message should be given very strongly to Myanmar that Bangladesh will take strong action against them if they continue to behave aggressively. When Myanmar warplanes or helicopter gunships first crossed the border of Bangladesh, we should have immediately fired warning shots at them without shooting them down – like Taiwan fired warning shots at Chinese warplanes that entered its airspace a few days ago. At the same time, we could also gather troops on our border. It was important for us to say clearly – we do not want war; But if Myanmar repeats the same incident, we are ready to respond militarily.

Many of us do not notice that we have fallen into a very big sovereignty crisis with the Rohingyas. Two years ago, a Myanmar minister in the United Nations complained against Bangladesh that Arsa and Arakan Army, two armed groups from Rakhine province, have bases in Bangladesh. He said the two organizations used Bangladeshi soil to launch attacks against the Myanmar army and then escape from them.

A plot to attack directly inside Bangladesh has been hatched for two years. Now Myanmar can do this at any need, by its own will or the will of others. The current rulers of Myanmar are puppets of China. Myanmar’s military government can be used as an effective weapon in the ongoing geopolitical competition around the upcoming elections in Bangladesh. I conclude by saying once again – China, the ‘closest friend’ of the Bangladesh government, was absent from the Bangladesh government’s briefing to the representatives of foreign embassies posted in Bangladesh on the tension on the Myanmar border.


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