New Delhi – Following a standoff between Burma and Bangladesh over disputed waters, the Burmese military junta to order four of its warships to be positioned near the western coast of Sittwe, an eyewitness said.
The four warships bearing the Nos. 772, 57, 555 and 554 were seen taking up position near the coast of No. (1) Seikkhan port of Sittwe following the standoff between Burma and Bangladesh over disputed waters in the Bay of Bengal on Sunday.
The eye witness, a local resident of Sittwe town, capital of Arakan state, said the first warship, No. 772, arrived on the coast on Monday, while two others followed on Tuesday. The last warship arrived on Friday morning, he said.
"I have never seen such warships on the coast. This is the first time I have seen them," the eyewitness said.
While the eyewitness said he was not aware of the reasons for the arrival of the warships, he said he saw officials of the Sittwe based Navy battalion No. (18) visiting the warships.
A military source, who wished not to be identified, told Mizzima that the Burmese military government has directed the warships to be positioned at the coast following the standoff between Bangladesh and Burma over the disputed maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal.
The face off between the two neighbouring countries surfaced on Sunday when the Bangladesh's chief advisor summoned the Burmese ambassador to the country and protested against Burma's gas exploration activities in the Bay of Bengal.
Bangladesh said the area where the exploration is being carried out falls under Bangladesh territorial waters. But Burma denied the accusation and said it is "Well within its economic zone."
On Thursday, a Bangladeshi delegation led by Foreign secretary Touhid Hossain held discussions with Burmese officials to resolve the dispute but later in the evening Burma's state television announced that Burma will continue drilling oil from the disputed area as it is in its waters.
The Burmese junta's announcement, whih was also published in the state-owned newspaper on Friday said Bangladesh's claim that the drillings were in its territorial waters was 'mistaken and unlawful' and that it will continue drilling despite the dispute.
Bangladesh's foreign adviser Dr. Iftekhar Chowdhury, earlier, on Tuesday said, "it will be our endeavor to settle the issue diplomatically, for Bangladesh is a peace-loving country. But let it also be understood that we will do all that it takes to protect our sovereignty."
Both countries have had a long standing dispute over its maritime boundary but the latest row came on Sunday when Bangladesh protested over the deployment of warships by Burma in support of the Daewoo International Corporation, that is carrying out test drilling in the Bay of Bengal, about 50 kilometers south of Bangladesh's Saint Martin Island.
On Thursday, reports citing Bangladesh's naval sources said Burma had withdrawn two of its warships, but the information cannot be independently verified with the Bangladesh Navy.
On Friday, a naval officer in Bangladesh's Chittagong Navy base told Mizzima that the Bangladesh Navy is continuing with its normal exercises. He added that so far the Navy has not received any orders to prepare for any kind of confrontation.
An editor of the Bangladesh Today newspaper in Dhaka said, the current standoff could not lead to confrontation that would severe ties between the two friendly countries.
"Bangladesh is avoiding any confrontational approach and will likely resolve it through diplomatic channels," he said, adding that the Bangladesh government has approached China to help defuse the tension.
China on Thursday said it noted the dispute between Bangladesh and Burma and urged the two to resolve the dispute through peaceful negotiations.
"We encourage the two to work together to properly settle their disputes through friendly negotiations. As a friend of both of them, China would like to play its role in an appropriate way," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.
But a Burmese journalist based in Dhaka, observed that the tension between the two countries could grow severe in the coming days as there are no signs that the two sides are willing to back-off.
He said, Bangladesh's Navy is also secretly preparing by reinforcing its naval troops, but he failed to elaborate on details of the preparation.
The office of the Bangladesh's Defence Joint-Secretary, when contacted by Mizzima on Friday, declined to comment.
Reporting by Than Htike Oo & Salai Pi Pi. Written by Mungpi