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Dhaka playing Islamic card: Burma

Dhaka playing Islamic card: Burma

Publication: intelligenceonline.net
Date: May 13, 2002
URL: http://www.intelligenceonline.net/allintelligencefull.asp?id=4552452054541&recno=940

Myanmar's efforts to stop the influx of Muslim fundamentalists from Bangladesh along their 273-km-long common border has suffered a setback following the Khalida Zia government's refusal to accept the border agreement signed three years ago, diplomats said.

Diplomats said that Myanmar is accusing Bangladesh of supporting Muslim fundamentalists who are now attempting to change the demographic profile of Shan and Chin provinces.

A similar problem caused by Bangladesh has altered the demographic profile in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya and Mizoram that have witnessed rising political and social unrest.

Last week, a top Myanmar military official secretly visited Dhaka to persuade Bangladesh prime minister Begum Khalida Zia to respect the Myanmar-Bangladesh border agreement but returned empty-handed.

Since Saturday last, both sides have been exchanging fire to neutralise the infiltration attempts of Muslim extremists from Bangladesh who are operating in connivance with Bangladesh Rifles (BDR).

BDR has been pushing Muslim extremists from Bangladesh under a well-designed plan to change the demographic profile of the border areas of Myanmar to make a future territorial claim on them, a diplomat said.

Both Myanmar and Bangladesh had entered into a clandestine pact some time in 1997 to solve the long-standing border dispute that has been going since 1958.

But the give-take agreement was finalised in 1999 under Sheikh Hasina Wajid's regime under which each side agreed to concede areas belonging to the other and to accept refugees who had fled in fear of more border clashes.

Between 1998-2002, some 15,000 Myanmar citizens quit their villages in fear of BDR reprisal but some of them also crossed into Bangladesh as they were Muslims.

At the same time, 12,000 Bangladeshis also left their homes for safer places.

But diplomats said that Bangladesh, under Khalida Zia, is pushing to replace fleeing Myanmarese Muslims with fundamentalists.

Zia is being politically supported by Bangladeshi fundamentalist groups who want to expand Islam to Myanmar taking advantage of the unresolved refugee issue.

Myanmar has diplomatically refused to accept these refugees leading to the collapse of the earlier border agreement.

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