The 1980 Border Agreement and the Boundary Line at Western Gate of Myanmar


By Shin Min

Undesirable events and issues cropping up each day at the Western Gate of Myanmar in the Rakhine State could be termed as motley assortments of disagreeable occurrences. In the aftermath of deadly terrorist attacks on 25th August 2017, agreed plans are being set to move ahead such as that of Myanmar for the peaceful acceptance of the Bengali returnees and that of the Bangladeshi side to repatriate people back to Myanmar, however, an unexpected and unwanted problem emerges at the area of boundary line between the two countries. Predicament of six thousand people staying on the dot of Myanmar soil and territory has jumped up prompting to find solution.

Boundary Line between the two countries
The land space between boundary pillar number (34) and (35) in the midst of the border line of Myanmar-Bangladesh demarcation and the Myanmar boundary fence has started to grouped up with a few number of people and multiplied to six thousand in a short time, creating a disturbing and worrying scenario. The officials from two sides met and discussed on the issue and reached an agreement. The people on the land space at boundary line have been transferred to Kutupalong Refugee Camp and Balukhali Refugee Camp in Bangladesh, leaving only one thousand people on the land, it is learnt.
In this upsetting situation, problematic terms of reference have popped up. In the sensitive and susceptible area around the boundary line between the two countries, the land space where no person is being allowed to stay, dwell or remain has been wrongly referred and quote as “No Man’s Land” and the “Zero Line”.

Sovereign State
If one asked, whether the term of reference is vital, and then the answer is very important. Union of Myanmar is a sovereign nation. A sovereign nation has the characteristics and uniqueness of the boundary demarcation, the territorial integrity, the population and the government. The boundary demarcation and definition of a nation is very much vital for its sovereignty. Therefore, the term of reference with regards to the boundary is to be accurate and precise. In the course of diplomatic relations over the international affairs, especially at the time of negotiations on bilateral relations between Myanmar and Bangladesh, more caution and prudence is to be advocated and endorsed. It should never ever be taken up lightly without due consideration.
In fact, “No Man’s Land” is a term being defined as an area of land between the borders of two countries or between two armies that is not controlled by either side, and allowed no one to stay or remain.
Myanmar has signed agreements with the neighboring countries on boundary line demarcation mentioning the distances of both countries where no one is being allowed to dwell or remain as well as banned and barred from construction of buildings. The purpose of the agreement on the “Non-Construction Zone” is to avoid the possible dent and disorder of connectivity of boundary line markers. Moreover, if any discrepancy and disparity occurs on the territorial issue, then the boundary demarcation line could be easily traced back.
Myanmar is being accorded with the agreement from Bangladesh that no building is to be constructed within 150 feet from boundary line. Therefore, no one is being allowed to construct structure in that zonal area of 150 feet from boundary line. The agreement has been exclusively included the boundary program agreement and cooperation plan signed between the two governments on 19 December 1980.

[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”16″ align=”left” bgcolor=”#” color=”#” bcolor=”#” arrow=”no”]“No Man’s Land” is a term being defined as an area of land between the borders of two countries or between two armies that is not controlled by either side, and allowed no one to stay or remain.[/quote]

In Quest of solution
At the moment, the land space under referral between the boundary pillar number (34) and (35) in the midst of Myanmar-Bangladesh Boundary line and the parameter fencing of Myanmar is the territorial land of Myanmar. It is absolutely and completely not the “No Man’s Land” as there was no such agreement whatsoever. Therefore, the “Non-Construction Zone” is never to be referred as “No Man’s Land”. In order to avoid confusion and misunderstanding, the land space should be termed as “Non-Construction Zone” of “Boundary Demarcation Line”.
In this regard, the English edition of the agreement has used the term “Boundary Line”. In some international context, “Zero Line” is being referred. In line with the existing Myanmar-Bangladesh Boundary Agreement, it is to be noted that the term under referral must be used “Boundary Line”
If and when the situation calls for face-to-face negotiations in quest of solution between the two countries, the aspiration and desire of each citizen is to be well prepared on the side of the country. At this juncture, the issue between the two countries is being handled and sorted out bilaterally, but under the sharp eyes of the international onlookers. It is therefore, the government and the people must be cohesive, integrated and unified.

Constant vigilance needed
It is possible that there might be some terrorists among those remaining at the boundary line, and the disturbing news creeps in that some terror organizations gave directives to hold on tight and stay there if the Myanmar side asked them to leave the land space. Moreover, the spreading of wrong information and fake news are mounting to reap political advantage to an alarming extent. Fake news such as that of life threatening situation is present inside Myanmar; that of extreme food shortages in the country, and that of other fabricated news are the whispering campaign of the so-called rights activists burning like wild fire.

Amicable result
At this juncture, the two governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh must always cooperate in finding a better solution and agreeable result. Therefore, the two governments are negotiating and discussing.
The first meeting of the repatriation plan for the persons who left Rakhine State is being discussed among the repatriation Joint Working Group between the two countries on 15 January and signed an agreement on 16. On 23 November 2017, an arrangement was being signed at the ministerial level between Myanmar and Bangladesh. In the initial stage, prescribed forms for verification by Myanmar authorities were in the process for those who fled to Bangladesh after the terrorist attacks on 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017. Firstly, complete forms with regards to (508) persons with Hindu faith and (750) persons with Muslim faith were being handed over to the Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary by Myanmar side, according to the official release after the meeting of two countries.
Furthermore, a list unveiling over 1000 ARSA terrorists has been entrusted into the hands of Bangladeshi side by Myanmar officials, it was learnt

Forms required to be revised
During February 2018, a Myanmar delegation led by Home Affairs Union Minister Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe paid an official visit to Bangladesh, where they have received a list from Bangladeshi side mentioning 8000 returnees for repatriation as first batch. Unfortunately, it was found that the prescribed forms being filled up for necessary verification were not in conformity with the forms provided by the Myanmar side. Therefore, to ensure the working plan fine and smooth, the forms were being revised and amended by the officials of Immigration and National Registration Department accordingly, it was learnt.
On 2 March 2018, Myanmar-Bangladesh battalion commander level of two countries met and discussed over the schedules and plans for border patrolling and for the exchange of security information. Matters relating to people remaining illegally near the border, arrangements for joint patrols, and exchanging news and information on occurrences along the border on a real-time basis were discussed during the meeting.
On 23 January 2018, the sectoral plans on repatriation tasks on the Myanmar side have been briefed and clarified by the responsible officials to the media personnel that started the same day. In other words, Myanmar side made the point clear that it has been doing what was earlier discussed and agreed between the two sides.
At this juncture, the relevant information is presented with regards to the resettlement and the development tasks being implementing in Rakhine State. In Rakhine State, certain committees are being formed for pragmatic approach namely Implementation Committee on recommendations of Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, (Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine-UEHRD). Moreover, the State Counsellor and the high ranking officials have been meeting with high dignitaries of international organizations, where the guests are being clarified with ground reality over the Rakhine episodes and incidents. Furthermore, the diplomats and envoys, the international organizations, and the local and foreign media have already been permitted to see and witness by themselves and comprehend well at the two repatriation camps and the interim acceptance camp in Myanmar.
In the aftermath of 2016 October incident, the local and foreign media have been allowed and permitted to have access on news for eight times in Maungdaw area and IDP camps in Rakhine State, it was learnt. In providing more accurate and authentic information in Maungdaw District area, easily accessible Mayu FM Radio Program airwaves via the languages of Bamar, Rakhine and Bengali have been transmitting six times a day.

Implementing with high observant
In wrapping up the aim and purpose of this article, it is to convey, inform and pass on the fact on one hand over the development tasks for Rakhine State currently going on, and on the other hand, that the existing challenges and complexities are being resolving with high perception. In the course of problem solving, even the simple casual talk and the highly worded term of reference are to be selected with wisdom, not to lead them into wrong notion.
The author of this article wishes to submit the esteemed readers that it is my privilege and honor to share that Myanmar side is implementing in good faith on the Rakhine situation for the safety at the western gate of our beloved country with high perception to avoid unnecessary and undesirable disadvantages.
Translated by UMT

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