Myanmar Border Police Exchange Fire With Unknown Assailants

The four officers were returning from a local police station when a group of armed men across the border fired on them.

A Myanmar child stands next to a barbed wire fence along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border near Du Thar Ya village in Maungdaw township, northern Rakhine state, Oct. 10, 2017.

UPDATED at 5.22 P.M. EST on 2017-11-07

Four Myanmar border police in the country’s volatile Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine were fired upon by armed men from Bangladesh territory along the border on Sunday evening, though none of them was injured.

“An armed group fired from the Bangladesh side, but nobody was injured,” said Rakhine state police officer Aung Myat Moe. “We can’t say which group they are from. We heard that three armed men were arrested at a security post in Bangladesh.”

The four policemen, who were stationed at milepost No. 45 in Maungdaw township, were shot at as they returned from Aung Thabyay Police Station after collecting their salaries near Sali Taung village at milepost no. 46, said Min Aung, Rakhine state government’s spokesman person.

“We can’t confirm who did it, because the police couldn’t see the other side,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

The group of armed men fired more than 30 shots at the four from a hill in Bangladesh about 300 feet from the border fence, according to a report by the online journal The Irawaddy, citing government spokesman Zaw Htay.

The groups exchanged fire, and one of the four border police returned to Aung Thabyay station on a motorbike to get reinforcements, the report said. More than 20 officers arrived at the scene and rescued the three other policemen.

Myanmar Border Guard Police have filed a complaint with Border Guards Bangladesh, a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Home Affairs responsible for the country’s border security, it said.

A border guard commander in southeastern Bangladesh said Tuesday he had received no reports about an armed group allegedly firing across the frontier at four policemen in Maungdaw, a township in neighboring Myanmar’s Rakhine state, over the weekend.

“If any such incident occurs, as per protocol, the Myanmar side would inform us. In this case, we have received no such information from the other side. So there is no question of investigating it,” Col. M.M. Anisur Rahman, a sector commander for the Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) in Cox’s Bazar district, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Maj. Ruhul Amin, a commander with Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion who is based in the southeastern district, also said he had no information about a cross-border shooting.

Maungdaw, along with neighboring Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships, has been the epicenter of recent violence during a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar military in response to deadly attacks on police outposts by Muslim militants on Aug. 25.

The area was subject to another crackdown by Myanmar security forces following smaller-scale attacks on border guard stations by the same group on Oct. 9, 2016.

Later that month, two ethnic Daingnet villagers from Aung Thabyay were killed and two others were injured during an attack allegedly by Muslim militants along the border near the same area where Sunday's shootings occurred.

Related attacks

Min Aung said authorities still do not know who shot and injured the villagers, but that he believes the three attacks — the policemen on Sunday, the Daingnet in late October, and the deadly raids on 30 police outposts on Aug. 25 — are all related.

“I think they are related,” he said. “The group that attacked 30 police posts at the same time is not a small one. Not only the groups, but also some local residents have connections [to the crimes].”

Though the military announced that security police in Maungdaw had been withdrawn and transferred to the regional capital Sittwe, villagers fear more attacks to come by Muslim militants.

Ming Aung told RFA there were still enough security guards and police in the Buthidaung and Maungdaw area to ensure their safety, though they could not guard each resident.

The Aug. 25 crackdown by the Myanmar military has driven more than 600,000 Rohingya out of northern Rakhine and across the border to Bangladesh where they live in overcrowded displacement camps with over 400,000 other Rohingya refugees who escaped earlier cycles of killings in Rakhine.

Reported and translated by Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.