An armed Myanmar police officer in Rakhine State. Photo: AFP / KHINE HTOO MRAT
An armed Myanmar police officer in Rakhine State. Photo: AFP / KHINE HTOO MRAT

A Myanmar patrol boat opened fire on Bangladeshi fishermen, killing one, because it feared it was under attack, Myanmar state media said on Wednesday of the latest incidence of violence on the countries’ troubled border.

A Bangladeshi security official said a complaint had been lodged regarding the shooting, which took place on Monday. The details of the incident are disputed.

The border between the two states has been unsettled since attacks on Myanmar border guard posts on October 9 in which nine policemen were killed. Myanmar blamed insurgents from the Rohingya Muslim minority.

A subsequent crackdown by Myanmar 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 recent wave of refugees from Myanmar. They have joined the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya already in Bangladesh, having fled previous unrest and discrimination.

Almost 70,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since October 9, many giving accounts of extrajudicial killings, beatings, rape and arbitrary detention.

The Myanmar government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, has rejected those reports, saying many are 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 say fisherman Nurul Amin, 26, was killed when a Myanmar navy vessel approached his boat at speed in the Naf river which forms the border in that area.

The Myanmar boat chased the small wooden fishing boat towards the Bangladeshi bank of the river before opening fire, they say.

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 Myanmar’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 Myanmar 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 Myanmar’s navy in an incident on the border.

A spokesman for the office of Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, said the information in the newspaper report came directly from the navy and he could not give any more details.