By THE IRRAWADDY
Burma has officially informed Bangladesh that it has erected a fence on its border to stop smuggling, including drug trafficking, according to Bangladesh media.
Dhaka’s Daily Star reported on Tuesday that Burma’s ambassador in Dhaka officially informed Bangladesh that the 40-kilometer (25-mile), barbed wire fence is intended only to stop illegal smuggling on the border.
Bangladesh Foreign Affairs Minister Hasan Mahmud recently expressed concern over Burma’s deployment of troops to build the border fence.
Hasan Mahmud said Bangladesh does not plan to make an official protest, according to Reuters.
The exchange comes at a time when both Burma and Bangladesh have been in the news over the exodus of Rohingya refugees who flee the area by taking boats out to sea, in a search for jobs and a better life.
Bangladesh held a meeting with the Burmese ambassador in Dhaka last week to discuss the issue, according to Khaing Mrat Kyaw, an editor at the Dhaka-based Narinjara News. Khaing Mrat Kyaw said that the purpose of the fence is to prevent Muslims from Bangladesh entering Burma.
People living near the Burma-Bangladesh border have voiced concern that the fence will end their ability to travel freely in the area.
Bangladesh and Burma share a 320-kilometer border, partly demarcated by the Naf River, a regular route for smuggling and illegal crossing by Muslim refugees.
Tensions increased between the two usually friendly neighbors last October when Burma started exploring for oil and gas in a disputed area of the Bay of Bengal.
The Burmese authorities allowed a South Korean company to explore for nature gas in the disputed area and sent navy ships into the area.
Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, the No 2 ranking general in the Burmese junta, visited Bangladesh in early October 2008 to attempt to resolve the tension, but the talks failed.
Meanwhile, Burma deployed troops to construct the border fence. Additional troops were sent to the area and remain on alert