The piercing sound of air raids, mortar shelling, and gunfire on Bangladesh’s southern border not only violates our territorial integrity and sovereignty but also presents a negative image of an uncertain future for the people of Myanmar, Bangladesh, and the entire region.
The sound of gunshots also serves as a metaphor for the Myanmar Junta’s struggles and failures in establishing control over its nation. According to experts, the present violence in Myanmar has all the characteristics of a civil war.
During a meeting with Bangladesh’s ambassador in Yangon, Myanmar blamed the recent cross-border shelling events on the Arakan Army (AA) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). According to reports from Myanmar, a full-fledged armed conflict has started between the Tatmadaw, the Arakan Army, and insurgents fighting for ethnic minorities’ right to self-determination in the Rakhine state, which is also home to over a million Rohingyas who have fled to Bangladesh.
The AA has denied that it is affiliated with ARSA. It rejected a government spokesman’s advice to its supporters not to support the insurgent group after it carried out deadly attacks on police stations in northern Rakhine state last week.
The three-week-old armed conflict worsened after the rebels killed 19 junta police officers and took control of a police base in Maungdaw Township close to the border.
Fighting between the Arakan Army and Myanmar regime forces restarted in the Rakhine and Chin regions after a precarious cease-fire that had persisted for a year and a half was breached, with over a dozen events occurring since July 18. Conflicts between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army (AA), which wants to annex Paletwa township in Chin and Rakhine states, have been going on for months.
This indiscriminate violence has eroded the Junta’s support among the populace against the civilian population, which has brought the nation dangerously close to civil war as more civilians take up guns to oppose the military regime.
In terms of Myanmar, Bangladesh is in a difficult position. Fighting nearly all of the nation’s ethnic groups doesn’t improve Myanmar’s situation. Myanmar is most likely ineligible to be classified as a state, let alone a single entity or even a federation, given the reduced reality of its geography. The rebels have control over one-half of the map. Even though China openly supports these rebels, it hasn’t been able to do much about them.
The Tatmadaw is also backed by China, which is puzzling. Consequently, things can get complicated when a government engages in combat with forces supported and equipped by its closest ally. Myanmar is discovering that overthrowing an elected government can be entertaining but not as entertaining as expected.
People’s Defence Force (PDF), an anti-coup resistance force, has been in charge of a widespread armed resistance campaign since the coup. The National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government in exile run by Suu Kyi’s NLD’s expelled MPs, served as the foundation for PDF. Usually armed only with handmade weapons and a thorough understanding of the terrain, PDF has astounded the military with its capabilities.
In reaction, the Junta conducted indiscriminate airstrikes, shelling, and arson attacks against cities and villages to end the resistance movement.
Ethnic Armed Forces Organizations (EAOs), also known as influential ethnic armed organizations, have formed coalitions to combat the Junta on the battlefield due to the Junta’s failings. Some of them have friendly ties to the military establishment. In light of recent developments, the heads of Myanmar’s seven most potent ethnic armed groups, including the Arakan Army, recently met in the remote Wa area bordering China to strengthen their alliance.
Some of these EAOs have actively given military training and other types of support to anti-coup resistance, even if they are not actively engaged in the campaign to topple the Junta regime in Myanmar, which is the PDF’s primary goal.
What awaits the region?
The crisis in Myanmar has already become a hotspot for international powers, much like every previous conflict in contemporary times. Myanmar has been trying to use the western world’s attention being diverted from this area owing to the situation in Ukraine, to wipe out its enemies on the battlefield.
The Junta has been looking for supporters domestically and abroad as part of its so-called “counter-terrorism” drive to combat the diplomatic isolation the west imposed on the country last year.
Russia, China and Serbia are currently the most potent weapons supplier for the Myanmar Army, which also provide hardware to Bangladesh. It points to an emerging trend concerning future implications for the broader Asia-Pacific region.
Bangladesh and Thailand have both been cautious and patient in their responses (to artillery shelling and airspace violations). Still, if the conflict persists and such violations become routine, the provocations will, in the future, be met with retaliation, leading to instability and chaos throughout the region.
Bangladesh and Myanmar share a turbulent, almost 300-kilometer border, which can potentially negatively affect both countries.
For more than a month, tensions have been rising between Dhaka and Naypyidaw. On the Bangladesh side of the border, numerous Tatmadaw airspace violations, deadly shelling, and gunfire have been documented.
Bangladesh has to strengthen its bilateral ties with allies and friends in order to express Dhaka’s concerns better and provide context for those concerns. Dhaka has to pursue a cautious approach and employ stratagem like China by reaching out to all sides in the raging conflict inside Myanmar regions that border Bangladesh while beefing up deterrence capabilities.