YANGON/COX‘S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) - A Myanmar patrol boat opened fire on Bangladeshi fishermen, killing one, because it feared it was under attack, Myanmar state media said on Wednesday, in a report on the latest violence on the countries’ troubled border.
But Bangladesh called the early Monday shooting an “act of unprovoked aggression” against unarmed fishermen, in a comment likely to increase tension on a border that has been unsettled since attacks on Myanmar guard posts on Oct. 9 in which nine policemen were killed.
Myanmar blamed insurgents from the Rohingya Muslim minority for the October attacks and, in response, its security forces launched a crackdown that has tested the already strained relations between the neighbours, who both see the stateless Rohingya as the other side’s problem.
Bangladesh has complained about a new wave of almost 70,000 refugees from Myanmar since Oct. 9, who have followed hundreds of thousands of Rohingya already in Bangladesh, having fled previous unrest and discrimination.
Many of the refugees have given accounts of extrajudicial killings, beatings, rape and arbitrary detention to U.N. investigators, journalists and human rights monitors.
The Myanmar government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has rejected the reports of abuse, saying many were fabricated. It insists strife in the area near the border with Bangladesh, where many Rohingya live, is an internal matter.
The government-run Global New Light of Myanmar, said the Myanmar patrol boat came across eight “illegal” Bangladeshi fishing boats, five of which were in Myanmar’s waters.
“The illegal boats surrounded the marine patrol boat in manoeuvres that suggested they were going to attack,” the newspaper said, citing unidentified officials.
“To ensure security and the lives of the soldiers, the patrol team fired two shots, causing the boats to abandon the area.”
The newspaper did not suggest the Bangladeshi fishermen were armed.
‘ACTS OF AGGRESSION’
Bangladeshi police, residents and fishermen in the Bangladeshi district of Teknaf said fisherman Nurul Amin, 26, was killed when a Myanmar navy vessel approached his boat at speed in the Naf river which forms the border in that area.
The Myanmar boat chased the small wooden fishing boat toward the Bangladeshi bank of the river before opening fire, they said.
One fisherman was being treated for a bullet wound and another went overboard but swam to safety, said the sources, including Colonel Anisur Rahman, Border Guard Bangladesh commander for Cox’s Bazar.
Rahman said the Myanmar vessel had “crossed into Bangladesh’s body of water”.
Bangladesh had “strongly protested the act of unprovoked aggression” to Myanmar’s government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“The ministry expressed deep concern at the repetition of such acts of aggression that do not contribute towards building up of an atmosphere of mutual trust and understanding among neighbours,” it said.
Bangladesh officials said in late December four Bangladeshi fishermen were injured by Myanmar’s navy in an incident on the border. [nL4N1EN35G
A spokesman for the office of Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, said the information in the newspaper report came directly from the navy and he could not give any more details.
“This is a complicated issue,” said the spokesman, Zaw Htay, adding it would take time to “find out the real situation of this incident”.
Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Robert Birsel