We understand Myanmar is delaying the return of more than 700,000 Rohingya who were forced across the border over the past year. Myanmar has so many excuses. With no concrete steps to ensure sustainable return of Rohingya people, Myanmar, surprisingly, has come up with another false claim showing Bangladesh’s St Martin’s Island as part of its territory in its recent population map.
Myanmar Information Management Unit uploaded the map drawing St Martin’s Island and Rakhine State with the same colour in a “deliberate attempt” to show the Island as part of their territory.
The incident prompted Dhaka to react sharply and lodge a strong protest officially against the ‘deliberate’ attempt of Myanmar. The Island was never a part of Myanmar if anyone looks back at the history since 1937. Dhaka says there is an ‘ulterior motive’ behind drawing and sharing the map of Myanmar on websites.
The 2014 Population and Housing Census – Myanmar’s first national census in 30 years – was undertaken by the Ministry of Immigration and Population with technical support from UNFPA between 30th March and 10th April 2014, according to Myanmar Information Management Unit.
The Saint Martin’s Island has been part of British-India when Myanmar got separated back in 1937. A clear line was drawn in between. After the India-Pakistan partition in 1947, it was with the then East Pakistan. Since our independence this Island has been a very popular tourist destination in Bangladesh. In 1974, it was clearly stated through a signed agreement that the Island is part of Bangladesh.
Even when Bangladesh won the maritime boundary dispute against Myanmar through International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in March 2012, it was clearly mentioned that the Island is part of Bangladesh.
On October 6, the government summoned Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka U Lwin Oo and strongly protested the matter. Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry Rear Admiral (retd) M Khurshed Alam summoned the Myanmar envoy to his office and handed over a strongly-worded protest note to him.
However, Myanmar Ambassador Lwin acknowledged the matter saying that it was a ‘mistake’ to show the St. Martin’s Island as part of their own territory in map.
“There’s no doubt that St Martin’s Island is part of Bangladesh. How could they (Myanmar) show St. Martin’s Island as part of their territory in map? It’s a deliberate attempt,” an official told Dhaka Courier.
Secretary Khurshed Alam had hour-long meeting with the Myanmar envoy and protested the matter by handing over relevant documents.
He reportedly asked the Myanmar envoy why the Myanmar side carried out survey in St. Martin’s Island. “You can’t do it. On what basis you did it?” Khurshed Alam was quoted as telling the Myanmar envoy.
The Myanmar envoy was tight-lipped with a gloomy face when approached to know why he was summoned. The Myanmar government reportedly spread the map to two global websites showing St. Martin’s Island is part of Myanmar’s territory.
The Myanmar envoy pledged to discuss the matter with his government and convey Dhaka’s concerns. Till the time of filing this report on October 9, we have not heard from the official channel that Myanmar replied to Bangladesh over the matter.
Earlier, Myanmar circulated a picture showing ‘insurgent training’, which is actually a photograph of freedom fighters during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971. The Myanmar military later issued a rare apology acknowledging that two photographs it published in a book on the crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority were ‘published incorrectly’.
Amid Bangladesh’s strong protest, Myanmar has removed population related information about St. Martin’s Island from its map but the map still shows the same colour.
“Myanmar side apologised for their mistake. After Bangladesh’s strong protest, they’ve removed population-related information but it is still showing the same colour (colour of Myanmar territory and St Martin’s Island),” said an official.
Previously, anybody saw St Martin’s population information by clicking on the computer button.
Meanwhile, the 20th meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) discussed the matter with due importance on October 7.
The meeting, chaired by Dr Dipu Moni, recommended the Foreign Ministry to remain active to encounter any negative propaganda against Bangladesh in the world. Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, M Faruk Khan, MP, Selim Uddin, MP, Begum Mahjabin Khaled, Foreign Secretary M Shahidul Haque and Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary Rear Admiral (retd) M Khurshed Alam were, among others, present at the meeting held at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
The parliamentary watchdog body asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to monitor whether there is any similar attempt by Myanmar anywhere and any website.