Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Myanmar: Unfriendly vibes in relations with Bangladesh

[Bangladesh was keen to construct a 133 km long portion of Asian High way between Bangladesh and Burma, without taking any third countries’ help. In this connection, frequent meetings were held between the two countries contributing improvements in their bilateral relation, particularly in the fields of politics, trade and business.Although the Bangladesh survey team has scheduled to discuss with concerned local and higher Burmese officials the plan has sunk into oblivion when the high officials failed to join them from Akyab (Sittwe) and Rangoon. Talking to the newsmen Eng. Kabir told that they would go to Arakan again for the purpose after discussion between the two countries. This Burmese action had surprised everyone in Bangladesh. People fail to understand why Burma didn’t receive the Bangladeshi survey team. It has been sometime a subject of discussion and criticism among the business community who wish the proposed project to be completed soon.]

Unfriendly Gesture in Dhaka-Rangoon Relations
Fayas Ahmed

There was a cloud of misunderstanding between Bangladesh and Burma over a visit by a Bangladeshi Survey Engineering team that had to return home immediately for lack of response from Burma side, reported the “The Daily Ajker Desh Bidesh” reported on26thSeptember 2004.

The Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s visits to Rangoon have led in a new era in the correlation between the two neighbors. She said that the planned road link between the two neighboring countries would bring them closer as well as the other countries of the region. The regular exchanges of visits by high officials of both countries have opened new opportunities between the two neighbors.

General Khin Nyunt, after he took office as Prime Minister, arrived at Dhaka on 4th April on a three-day official visit accompanied by a 41-member delegation including several ministers and government officials. On 5th April, Bangladesh and Burma signed a MoU on establishing a direct road link between the two countries. The road, which will ultimately link to China, is a part of Bangladesh’s policy of developing ties with economic giants to its east. The two neighbors also singed two other MoUs on cooperation in agriculture and related fields and waiver of visas for Bangladeshi diplomats and government officials.

Under the first MoU, Dhaka and Rangoon agreed to set up joint technical and financial taskforces to determine the details for early implementation of the road-link project. Bangladesh will assist in the construction of a bridge over River Naf, which is very short distance to link the two countries.

Communication Minister Nazamal Huda and Burma transport Minister Major General Hla Myint Swe laid the foundation stone for the 133-km highway on 5th April 2004 that is believe to be completed in a year and a half. The friendship highway, which would subsequently link to the Asian Highway, will go through thirty-eight other countries, the “The Daily Star” said.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Morshed Khan has said the construction of the proposed Bangladesh-Burma Asian highway will start this year, the “The Daily Star reported on September 18, 2003.

Hearing it, most of the border traders bought goods with a hope of exporting them to Burma but in effectively. So, the people of Bangladesh now cast doubt over the successful construction of the road in scheduled time, the “The Daily Ajker Desh Bidesh” reported on 26th September.

Businessmen in Bangladesh feel the importance of direct road communication linking Dhaka-Chittagong with Rangoon to export Bangladeshi goods to other Asian countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and China without depending on any third countries. Generally, it would be a great benefit to Bangladesh despite the fact that there is possibility of fall of revenue in Chittagong port.

Bangladesh was keen to construct a 133 km long portion of Asian High way between Bangladesh and Burma, without taking any third countries’ help. In this connection, frequent meetings were held between the two countries contributing improvements in their bilateral relation, particularly in the fields of politics, trade and business.

The cost of the road is estimated at Taka 605 crore (US$ 10.083 crore) including the cost of a bridge across the Naf River. Bangladesh has already given $10 million to construct bridges and culverts on its side of the border. The road will run from Ramu to Ghondom of Cox’s Bazar District (36 kms) within Bangladesh to 97 kms from Taungbro Left of Maungdaw Township to Buthidaung Town in Arakan State, Burma.

As agreed upon between two countries, on 21st June 2004, a 3-member survey team headed by Abed Uddin, Additional Chief Engineer of Roads and Highways Division of Dhaka went to Arakan State. Mohammad Idris, Chittagong Zonal Additional head of Engineering and Mohammad Kabir, an in-Chare-of Bridge Mapping Department were the two other engineers who accompanied Eng. Abed Uddin. They went there for 4 days to make necessary survey for construction of a bridge over Purma River in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State. The bridge is part of the Asian High way and Bangladesh is to bear the cost of its construction.

On 21st June 2004, the said Bangladesh survey team left Cox’s Bazar for Teknaf and reached there at about 9:00 am. They were scheduled to cross the Naf River at about 10:00 am. But, they received no information from their Burmese counterparts even after the time was over. They, however, continued waiting in vain at Teknaf until noon. Then they crossed the border in a BDR speedboat. With the cooperation of Nasaka, they reached a police station under Maungdaw Township where they waited for their counterparts until 4:00 pm. Since nobody appeared they returned to Bangladesh in great disappointment, the “The Daily Cox’s Bazar” said.

Although the Bangladesh survey team has scheduled to discuss with concerned local and higher Burmese officials the plan has sunk into oblivion when the high officials failed to join them from Akyab (Sittwe) and Rangoon. Talking to the newsmen Eng. Kabir told that they would go to Arakan again for the purpose after discussion between the two countries. This Burmese action had surprised everyone in Bangladesh. People fail to understand why Burma didn’t receive the Bangladeshi survey team. It has been sometime a subject of discussion and criticism among the business community who wish the proposed project to be completed soon.

In another development, eight Bangladeshi businessmen who were visiting the border town of Maungdaw on 24th August, on border trade were push back by the Burmese authorities had caused tension between two sides of the border. However, some speculate that the incident might be related to grenade explosion on 21st August in Dhaka.

Although it has been already one year that Bangladesh Communication Minister Nazamal Huda and Burma transport Minister Major General Hla Myint Swe laid the foundation stone for the Asian High way, the construction is yet to start and so the project is still uncertainty.


Email To DakBangla from KaladanPress