Bangladesh Army Chief Visits Burma
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Bangladesh Army Chief Visits Burma


By WAI MOE Tuesday, May 24, 2011


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Bangladesh army chief Gen Abdul Mubeen met with Lt-Gen Soe Win, the commander-in-chief of Burma's army, in Naypyidaw. It was the second high-level meeting between top military officials of the two countries in two months, but there were no reports that they resolved the decades-long maritime boundary dispute in the natural gas rich Bay of Bengal.

A Burmese state-run-newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, reported on Tuesday that Abdul Mubeen’s Bangladesh army delegation were received by Soe Win on Monday morning, shortly after the delegation arrived in Burma’s capital.

Bangladesh Chief of Army Staff Gen Abdul, left, meets with the chief of Burma's air force, Lt Gen Myat Hein, right, in Dhaka in April 2011. (Photo: ISPR)
The newly appointed joint-chief of staff of Burma's military (army, navy, air force), Lt-Gen Hla Htay Win, accompanied Soe Win during the meeting. The newspaper did not report any details about the meeting between the two military leaders.

According to a report in April by Bangladesh’s leading newspaper, The Daily Star, which said that the country's top general would visit Burma in May and appraise the president of Bangladesh afterwards, Abdul Mubeen said: “We're interested to promote relations between the armed forces.”

However, the issues of the maritime dispute between the two countries and the status of Rohingya refugees were expected to be highlighted along with bilateral military relations, including future military training in Bangladesh for Burmese officers, and inter-country rail and highway projects.

Since the 1970s, both countries claimed rights to the same maritime area, estimated to be 150,000 square km, in the Bay of Bengal. The first talks on the maritime dispute were held in 1974.  Then in November 2008, the dispute escalated when both countries sent naval vessels to the area.

A fellow at the Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research, Jared Bissinger, wrote in a report that the maritime dispute between Burma and Bangladesh is a “noteworthy strategic and diplomatic challenge” in the region, saying it will involve two powerful countries, China and India, which are “separately courting both Burma and Bangladesh.”

He added that Burmese and Bangladeshi officials noted that the dispute is among the two countries’ most important bilateral issues, alongside historically intractable problems such as the status of the Rohingya.

Bissinger argued that the political survival and personal enrichment of Burma's top leaders are key ingredients in the political calculus of the maritime boundary dispute, adding that revenues from natural gas exports have most likely been used to fund the Burmese armed forces.

After Burma's new President Thein Sein was sworn in on March 30, Naypyidaw sent a high level military delegation, led by Lt-Gen Myat Hein, the commander-in-chief of the air force, for a six-day visit to Dhaka in late April. At the time, the Bangladeshi media reported that the two countries agreed to improve bilateral relations and mutual cooperation, including military collaboration.

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