Dhaka, Bangladesh – Mohammad Yunus, a 45-year-old resident of Ghumdhum in Bangladesh’s Bandarban district along the Myanmar border, said he hasn’t been able to sleep properly for weeks.
Reason? Weeks of continuous cross-border shooting and artillery shelling by Myanmar’s military, which experts say could be a way to push more Rohingya into Bangladesh.
“We couldn’t sleep at night. Continuous gunfire. Sometimes there are explosions,” Yunus told Al Jazeera by phone.
“We have moved out of our home and moved into a relative’s residence. We were scared for our lives,” he said.
The shooting from Myanmar has escalated tensions between neighboring countries, raising fears of a new exodus of Rohingya to Bangladesh as well as reducing their prospects of repatriation to Myanmar.
Bandarban authorities say they have begun the process of moving about 300 families living in Ghumdhum to a safer place inland. The no-man’s land in the border area is also home to about 4,500 Rohingya refugees.
Last Friday, a Rohingya teenager was killed and four other Bangladeshi nationals were injured when mortar shells fired from Myanmar exploded on a stretch of land along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
Bangladesh has the world’s largest refugee camp with nearly a million won mostly Muslim Rohingyamost of them fled a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military in 2017, which the United Nations says was carried out with “genocide intent”.
Myanmar has been accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Myanmar’s military denies the allegation.
Bangladesh is lobbying with international agencies to repatriate the Rohingya back to their homeland, but the refugees have refused, citing safety concerns and continuing to live in squalid camps. and cramped.
Now, weeks of continuous gunfire and shelling by the Myanmar army along the border with Bangladesh have increased tensions between the neighbours.
Local media reports earlier this month said more than a dozen Rohingya had entered Bangladesh amid cross-border shooting, seeking refuge in camps near Teknaf. Reports added that hundreds of Rohingya had gathered near the border to cross the Naf River into Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said this week that the government has sealed off the border with Myanmar to prevent the continued influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.
“We won’t take any more Rohingya,” Momen said at a news conference on Wednesday.
While Bangladesh’s border guard, the Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB), has increased vigilance along the 271 km (168 mi) Bangladesh-Myanmar border, Dhaka has said it does not want to engage militarily. and is seeking to resolve tensions through diplomatic channels.
Aung Kyaw Moe, Myanmar’s special envoy to Dhaka, has been summoned four times by Bangladesh’s foreign ministry in as many weeks, which has raised serious concerns about mortar shells falling on the country’s territory, shootings indiscriminate airspace and airspace violations.
Moe said the attacks on Bangladeshi territory were carried out by Arakan Armyan armed group fighting the Myanmar army for the rights of ethnic minorities in the Rakhine and Chin states of Myanmar.
Since the beginning of August, fighting between the Myanmar army and the Arakan army has increased along the border.
A top official from Bangladesh’s foreign ministry told Moe that shells falling on Bangladesh were unacceptable. He said that the dispute between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar army is their “internal matter” and how they choose to resolve it is “totally up to them”.
Delaware Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, believes that the Myanmar military’s cross-border firing and violations of Myanmar’s airspace could be a way to incite Bangladesh to join the military.
“It will divert international attention from their internal conflicts with different ethnic groups that have been going on for a long time,” he told Al Jazeera.
He said Bangladesh has so far been on the right track not to fall into Myanmar’s trap.
Hossain said Myanmar may be trying to attract another influx of Rohingya into Bangladesh’s territory.
“Myanmar also aims to make things more difficult so that the repatriation of Rohingyas can be delayed even longer. They see advantages if they can cause conflict or military action in Bangladesh,” he said.
On Wednesday, Bangladeshi Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan held a meeting with the country’s law enforcement and security agencies. He later said the Bangladesh army was ready to defend the country if instructed to do so.
Also on the same day, Bangladesh Army Commander-in-Chief SM Shafiuddin Ahmed said his army was prepared to respond to Myanmar if necessary.
However, Foreign Minister Momen stressed on Wednesday that Bangladesh has no intention of going to war with the neighboring country and hopes the situation can be resolved diplomatically.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, currently in the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly, is expected to raise the issue in a speech scheduled for late Friday.
Hasina is also expected to urge global leaders to take an active role in arranging the repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
Shafqat Munir, senior research fellow at think-tank, Bangladesh Institute for Peace and Security Studies, told Al Jazeera that the Bangladeshi government has taken “absolutely the right steps in its diplomatic approach.” .
“Our goal should be to solve the problem diplomatically and through dialogue. He said.
“However, we must watch out for any prospect of a new influx of Rohingya or any other migrant Myanmar citizens. We also need to make sure that our voices are heard in the international community.”