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A Burmese patrol boat opened fire on Bangladeshi fishermen, killing one, because it feared it was under attack, Burma’s state media said on Wednesday, in a report on the latest violence on the countries’ troubled border.
A Bangladeshi security official said a complaint had been lodged over the early Monday shooting, the details of which were disputed by the two sides.
Their border has been unsettled since attacks on Burmese border guard posts on 9 October in which nine policemen were killed. Burma blamed insurgents from the Rohingya Muslim minority.
A subsequent crackdown by Burmese security forces 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 the new wave of refugees from Burma who have followed hundreds of thousands of Rohingya already in Bangladesh, having fled previous unrest and discrimination.
Almost 70,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since 9 October, many giving accounts of extrajudicial killings, beatings, rape and arbitrary detention to UN investigators, journalists and human rights monitors.
The Burmese 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.
Bangladeshi police, residents and fishermen in the Bangladeshi district of Teknaf said fisherman Nurul Amin, 26, was killed when a Burmese navy vessel approached his boat at speed in the Naf River, which forms the border in that area.
The Burmese 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.
The government-run Global New Light of Myanmar, however, said the patrol boat came across eight “illegal” Bangladeshi fishing boats, five of which were in Burma’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.
Bangladeshi Border Guard commander Rahman said the Burmese vessel had “crossed into Bangladesh’s body of water.”
“We sent a protest letter to our Myanmar counterpart for killing the Bangladeshi fisherman,” he said.
Bangladesh officials said in late December four Bangladeshi fishermen were injured by Burma’s navy in an incident on the border.
A spokesman for the office of Burma’s 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.”