March 30, 2009 / 8:06 AM / 11 years ago

Myanmar reassures Bangladesh over border row

DHAKA (Reuters) - Myanmar has informed Bangladesh it plans to build a barbed wire fence 100 meters (300 feet) from a border line and not close to the zero line, the state minister for foreign affairs said on Monday.

Hasan Mahmud’s statement came after Bangladesh’s foreign ministry official expressed concern over Myanmar’s plans to build a barbed wire fence along a 40-km (25-mile) stretch of their border, renewing tensions after a resources dispute last year.

“This has partly eased our concern but we have asked them to tell us this in writing,” Mahmud told reporters.

The minister said under international rules, a country can construct 50 meters (150 feet) off the zero line. Bangladesh does not plan to lodge an official protest, Mahmud added.

A foreign ministry official, who asked not to be named, had earlier said Myanmar planned “to erect the fence only 13 meters (40 feet) off the no man’s land.”

Bangladesh and Myanmar share a 320-km (190-mile) border, partly demarcated by the Naf river, a regular route for smuggling and illegal crossings by Muslim refugees fleeing what they say is persecution by Myanmar’s military junta.

Tension rose between the two usually friendly neighbors last October when Myanmar started exploring for oil and gas in a disputed area of the Bay of Bengal, defying protests by Dhaka.

Both countries deployed navy ships but withdrew them when Myanmar halted the exploration amid intense diplomatic pressure.

Troops along the borders remain on alert, security officials said, but there has been no violence. Bangladesh hopes to demarcate its boundary in the Bay in the next few years.

Reporting by Masud Karim; Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Sugita Katyal

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