Hasina says Bangladesh was alert against Myanmar’s provocations for war

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“It was as if the neighbouring country would wage war against us,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Saturday without mentioning Myanmar.

More than half a million Rohingyas have fled across the border to Bangladesh since a counter-insurgency offensive by Myanmar’s army in the wake of militant attacks on security forces in late August.

The UN has described Myanmar’s strategy as “ethnic cleansing”.

Bangladesh was already home to 400,000 Rohingya refugees before insurgents attacked 30 police outposts and an army base in the western state on Aug 25.

During the first few days of the latest influx, Bangladesh kept its border closed, but later decided to open it up to Rohingyas.

Following the Aug 25 incident, Myanmar helicopters and drones violated airspace repeatedly. The country’s security forces also opened fire on Rohingyas, who gathered at the border to cross into Bangladesh.

“The army, border guards and police were put on the alert, but I asked them not to act on any provocation without my order,” Hasina said on her arrival in Dhaka after attending the UN General Assembly in New York.

She said a situation like that would have diverted the global attention.

“There are various quarters who would try to create a situation to divert the attention. We were very careful about that.”

Immediately after the incidents of repeated airspace violation, Dhaka had warned Nay Pyi Taw that any more “provocative acts” could have “unwarranted consequences”.

On Sep 15, the chargé d’affaires of the Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka, Aung Myint, was summoned by the foreign ministry, when a protest note was handed over to him.

“Bangladesh expressed deep concern at the repetition of such acts of provocation and demanded that Myanmar takes immediate measures to ensure that such violation of sovereignty does not occur again,” the ministry said in a statement later.

“These provocative acts may lead to unwarranted consequences.”

Senior cabinet member Obaidul Quader said on Sep 23 that the prime minister told them that the government would deal with the matter carefully.

International aid agencies say some 515,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh in six weeks since the end of August.

On Friday, the United Nations said that is bracing for a possible ‘further exodus’.

“This flow out of Myanmar has not stopped yet, it’s into the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya (who are) still in Myanmar, we want to be ready in case there is a further exodus,” Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said at a news briefing in Geneva.

“Half a million people do not pick up sticks and flee their country on a whim.”

An estimated 2,000 Rohingyas are arriving in Bangladesh a day, the International Organisation for Migration or IOM said on Friday.

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