Myanmar border guards flee to Bangladesh amid clashes with rebels

DHAKA: At least 95 Myanmar border guards, some of them wounded, have fled to Bangladesh over the last few days as fighting intensifies between rebel forces in Myanmar and the junta regime, officials in Bangladesh said on Monday (Feb 5).

At least two people were killed in Bangladesh on Monday after mortar shells fired from Myanmar during clashes there landed across the border.

Since mounting a coup against an elected government in 2021, the junta is facing its biggest challenge, trying to contain a bloody rebellion which has seen allied anti-junta groups backed by a pro-democracy parallel government seize control of several military posts and towns.

The sound of gunfire could be heard from across the Myanmar border in Bangladesh’s southeastern tourist district of Cox’s Bazar, where nearly a million members of the Muslim minority from Myanmar live in bamboo-and-plastic hut camps after fleeing a military crackdown there in 2017.

Members of the Myanmar Border Guard Police (BGP) entered Bangladesh with their weapons and 15 of them had bullet wounds when they crossed the border, Shariful Islam, a spokesman for Border Guard Bangladesh, said on Monday, adding that the wounded received treatment at different hospitals.

The BGP troops could be accommodated in the nearby district of Bandarban before they are sent back to Myanmar, said Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, Bangladesh’s refugee relief and repatriation commissioner based in Cox’s Bazar.

“I have been asked if the BGP can be sheltered safely in transit camps that were built in Bandarban for repatriating Rohingya refugees. The camps are empty,” Rahman said.

Aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said they had treated 17 people wounded in the clashes on Sunday “following fighting at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border”.

“All the patients had gunshot wounds”, MSF said Monday. “Two were in life-threatening condition, and five were seriously injured.”

Local police chief Abdul Mannan said a Bangladeshi woman, identified as 48-year-old Hosne Ara, and an unnamed ethnic Rohingya man had been killed on Monday afternoon.

“They were sitting in the kitchen … when a mortar hit the place,” Ara’s daughter-in-law said, too distraught to give her name.

“She was serving lunch to the Rohingya man who was hired by the family for farm work when they were hit.” A child near the border was also injured by a mortar shell fired from Myanmar, said Mohammad Shamsud Douza, the deputy Bangladesh government official in charge of refugees.

Bangladeshi villagers living close to the border said fighting broke out across the frontier last week, with many sending their children away to relatives to escape the conflict.

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