TUMBRU, Bangladesh — Fighting in Myanmar raged close to the Bangladesh border on Sunday, with terrified residents reporting bullets crossing the frontier, medics treating patients and the government saying guards had fled seeking shelter.
Aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its medics in Cox’s Bazar had “received a large number of patients, following fighting at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.”
MSF said that on Sunday evening 17 patients had been admitted to Kutupalong Hospital for treatment, without giving further details of their nationalities or injuries.
Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said at least 14 border officers from neighbouring Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state “entered our territory for self-protection” ahead of advancing rebel Arakan Army (AA) fighters.
However, Bangladesh’s private broadcaster Channel 24 said the number of guards was higher, reporting at least 66 officers had sought shelter, including 10 with bullet wounds.
“The Arakan Army has captured many areas of Rakhine state one after another,” Khan told reporters in Dhaka.
“According to our information, they are advancing forward.”
Parts of Myanmar near the 270-kilometre (167-mile) border with Bangladesh – as well as neighbouring India to the north – have seen frequent clashes since November, when AA fighters ended a ceasefire that had largely held since a 2021 coup.
In October, an alliance including AA insurgents and other ethnic minority fighters launched a joint offensive across northern Myanmar, seizing vital trade hubs on the Chinese border.
Last month, the alliance announced a China-mediated ceasefire, but it does not apply to areas near the Bangladeshi and Indian border, where fighting continues.
Bangladeshi villagers living close to the border said they were fearful the fighting would spill over.
Khairul Bashar, 25, said his uncle was shot in the leg by a stray bullet fired from Myanmar.
“We are spending sleepless nights in fear”, Bashar said.
Rahima Begum, 67, said she had fled the Bangladeshi village of Tumbru, saying her grandson “screamed in fear” when gunfire came close.
“Our homes were sprayed with bullets,” Begum said.
“One bomb fell near our home and it shook terribly.”
Primary teacher Helal Uddin said students had stopped coming to her school near the border, and she had moved into Cox’s Bazar for “safety and shelter.”
MSF said it was monitoring the situation, expressing “concern for people living on both sides of the border who are affected by violence.”
Khan said Bangladesh had bolstered security along its border, and would contact Myanmar to return the guards.
“Whoever enters inside our border, we will detain and hand them over to Myanmar,” he said.
Bangladesh is already home to around one million Rohingya refugees, driven out from Myanmar in a military crackdown in 2017. — AFP