By ARKAR MOE
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni arrived in Burma on Friday for a three-day visit centering on negotiations over disputed maritime boundaries in the Bay of Bengal involving large amounts of potential gas deposits.
Accordingly to a Zai Zai Din, a Bengali newspaper, the Bangladesh diplomatic team will also discuss the repatriation of Rohingya refugees and the restarting of a stalled highway project.
According to sources, Burma’s construction of a border fence between the two neighbors, a project that was undertaken without official consultation with Bangladesh, has worsened relations between the two countries.
Khine Mrat Kyaw, an editor with the Bangladesh-based Narinjara news agency, told The Irrawaddy, that a meeting between Burma and Bangladesh on the construction of the fence ended without any agreement. “I think both sides will not give up on their demands,” he said.
Bangladesh is planning to ask for a United Nations’ ruling on its maritime demarcation dispute with Burma and India in the Bay of Bengel, as both neighbors have challenged its proposals with overlapping charges. Bangladesh has also objected to Burma’s test drilling in the sea adjacent to its territory.
Khine Mrat Kyaw said: “The dispute over the maritime boundary was averted by diplomatic resolutions last November. Actually, Burma and Bangladesh have been locked in tensions concerning territorial issues. I don’t think it can solve these issues because both governments will not give up their demands. But it can be resolved under the United Nations.”
According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Bangladesh must demarcate its boundaries by July 27, 2011; India by June 29, 2009; and Burma by May 21, 2009.
The issue of Rohingya refugees poses a longstanding dispute between the countries. Bangladesh is now on alert along the border for a feared influx of refugees due to Burma’s border fence construction. The repatriation of current refugees has been stalled for more than three years by Burma’s refusal to take them back.
Khine Mrat Kyaw said, “Now Bangladesh wants to practice a ‘constructive engagement policy’ to solve several issues. But it needs to take time to solve these issues.”
In addition to discussing territorial tensions, the Bangladesh team will also propose restarting a cross-border highway project that was agreed upon in 2005.
“This highway project started a long time ago,” said Khine Mrat Kyaw. “I don’t think it will succeed now. For the time being, this will only be on paper.”