Written by Diplomatic Correspondent
While tensions between Bangladesh and Myanmar are running high over Rohingya crisis, the Myanmar government again falsely depicted Bangladesh's Saint Martin's Island as part of its territory in a map in one of its websites. Dhaka has reacted sharply and lodged a strong protest officially against the ‘deliberate’ attempt. Last year, the Myanmar authorities did the same thing... ...
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 14, 2019 summoned acting Ambassador (CDA) of Myanmar Aung Kyaw here in Dhaka and strongly protested the matter. Director General (South East Asia wing) M Delwar Hossain summoned the Myanmar CDA to his office and handed over a strongly-worded protest note to him. Dhaka demanded immediate corrective measures and urged to act responsibly and refrain from making such false claims.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” the Foreign Ministry said in its protest note. The director general who summoned the Myanmar CDA, told that Myanmar official websites which showed Saint Martin's island as their territory remained inaccessible for a few months after Bangladesh protested last October. “But we have been seeing the false claims of Myanmar from earlier this month,” he added.
On October 6, last year, Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry Rear Admiral (retd) M Khurshed Alam summoned Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka, U Lwin on the same issue and handed over a similar protest note to him. Myanmar Ambassador Lwin acknowledged the matter saying that it was a ‘mistake’ to show the St. Martin’s Island as part of their territory
However, with great concern, Bangladesh officials noticed that the advanced interactive map on the website of the Department of Population under the Ministry of Labor, Immigration and Population of Myanmar (www.dop.gov.mm), continues to show the similar data gradients (population, land type, etc.) for the Saint Martin's Island of Bangladesh as those of Myanmar.
Moreover, websites of Myanmar Statistical Information Services (www.mmsis.gov.mm) shows the Saint Martin's island with the same color as that of Rakhine state, while a different color has been used for other parts of Bangladesh.
“Continuation of such misrepresentation, despite the assurance on the part of Myanmar for effective measures to permanently redress the issue, could therefore be construed as a deliberate attempt of Myanmar,” the foreign ministry said in its protest note.
The note also pointed out that all entities, particularly the government organizations, are supposed to publish only authentic information on their websites and official documents. Owners of the websites/documents have to assume all responsibilities of any contents related therein, regardless of its preliminary sources.
“Myanmar cannot deny her responsibilities of this utter misrepresentation just adding a disclaimer. This is absolutely unacceptable,” the note reads.
Notably, Saint Martin’s Island was never part of Myanmar if anyone looks back at the history since 1937.
It was part of British-India when Myanmar got separated back in 1937 and that means it was part of India. A clear line was drawn in between.
And in 1947, officials said, the island was part of Pakistan, and it became part of independent Bangladesh after the 1971 Liberation War.
In 1974, it was also clearly stated through a signed agreement that the island is part of Bangladesh.
Even when Bangladesh won the maritime boundary dispute against Myanmar at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in March 2012, it was clearly mentioned that the Saint Martin’s Island is part of Bangladesh, officials said.
Myanmar reportedly spread the maps to two global websites showing the island is part of its territory.
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 the Myanmar Information Management Unit.
Earlier, Myanmar circulated a picture showing “insurgent training,” which is actually a photograph of freedom fighters during Bangladesh’s War of Independence 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.”
Given the facts, it is obvious that the Myanmar government has an ill motive in doing such things. They want to divert the attentions from the Rohingya crisis and keep Bangladesh busy with a new issue.