Myanmar and Bangladeshi authorities have vowed to strengthen border security and combat “illegal armed groups and criminals” following clashes on their shared frontier that Dhaka said left one of its soldiers dead.
The neighbours said they would take measures to avoid a repeat of “untoward” incidents in May, which saw gunfire exchanged between both countries’ security forces, the Myanmar Police and Border Guard Bangladesh said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The unrest comes amid accusations by Myanmar that an armed group claiming links to the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority had started to operate in the area.
Myanmar said it had provided information about the activities of the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) “inside the territory of Bangladesh which are detrimental to peace and stability along the border areas,” according to the statement.
Bangladesh also affirmed it “always show zero tolerance on the issue of miscreants [and] illegal armed groups”.
Communal violence broke out in Rakhine in June and October 2012, leaving at least 200 people dead and around 140,000 displaced, mainly the Rohingya.
‘Not a new group’
The US State Department says the RSO was active on the border in the early 1990s after a Myanmar military crackdown that caused tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh. But experts say it has long been viewed as a defunct armed force.
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A senior Myanmar police official told the AFP news agency that the RSO were “not a new group” and that the RSO were viewed as “extremists”, but declined to give further information about their supposed activities.
Police officials have told AFP that they believed security forces had been attacked by members of RSO in the days leading up to the death of the Bangladesh soldier on May 28.
Gunfire erupted again on the border two days later during negotiations for the return of the man’s body.
Myanmar has rejected Bangladesh claims that the dead soldier was a legitimate member of its border security force and Thursday’s joint statement made no mention of the fatality.
The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said this week it estimates more than 86,000 people have left Myanmar’s Rakhine by boat from the Bay of Bengal in the last two years, including 15,000 between January and April this year alone.