Myanmar keeps distorting facts showing Bangladesh’s St Martin’s Island as part of its territory in Myanmar's government maps prompting Dhaka to react sharply and lodge a strong protest officially against the ‘deliberate’ attempt.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Thursday summoned acting Ambassador of Myanmar Aung Kyawhere and strongly protested the matter.
Director General (South East Asia wing) M Delwar Hossain summoned the Myanmar envoy to his office in the afternoon and handed over a strongly-worded protest note to him.
"While the Saint Martin’s island of Bangladesh is being presented on the governmental websites of Myanmar as their territory, Myanmar cannot deny her responsibilities of this utter misrepresentation just adding a disclaimer. This is absolutely unacceptable," the protest note reads.
The Myanmar side earlier affirmed through a note verbale that they removed all links which falsely mentioned about the Saint Martin’s Island.
"However, with great concern, it has been noticed that the advanced interactive map section of the website of the Department of Population under the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population of Myanmar (www.dop.gov.mn) containing various Geographic Information System (GIS) data on Myanmar still shows the similar data gradients for the Saint Martin’s island of Bangladesh as those of Myanmar," according to the protest note.
Besides, the website of Myanmar Statistical Information Services (www.mmsis.gov.mm) shows the Saint Martin’s island of Bangladesh with the same colour as that of Rakhine state, while a different colour has been used for other parts of Bangladesh.
"The continuation of such misrepresentation, despite the assurances on the part of Myanmar for effective measures to permanently redress the issue, could therefore be construed as a deliberate attempt of Myanmar," reads the note.
All entities, particularly the government organisations, are supposed to publish only authentic information on their websites and official documents.
Owners of the websites/documents have to take all responsibilities of any contents reflected therein, regardless of its preliminary sources.
On October 6 last year, Maritime Affairs Unit Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ministry Rear Admiral (retd) M KhurshedAlam summoned Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka U LwinOo on the same issue and handed over similar protest note to him.
On the day, Myanmar Ambassador Lwin acknowledged the matter saying that it was a ‘mistake’ to show the St. Martin’s Island as part of their territory.
The Island was never part of Myanmar if anyone looks back at the history since 1937 and Dhaka says there is an ‘ulterior motive’ behind drawing and sharing the map of Myanmar on websites.
It was part of British-India when Myanmar got separated back in 1937 and that means it was part of India. A clear line was drawn in between.
And in 1947, officials said, it was part of Pakistan, and after the Liberation War the Island became part of independent Bangladesh.
In 1974, it was clearly stated through a signed agreement that the Island is part of Bangladesh.
Even when Bangladesh won the maritime boundary dispute against Myanmar through International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in March 2012, it was clearly mentioned that the Island is part of Bangladesh, officials said.
The Myanmar reportedly spread the maps to two global websites showing St. Martin’s Island is part of Myanmar’s territory.
The Myanmar envoy promised to discuss the matter with his government and convey Dhaka’s concerns.
The 2014 Population and Housing Census – Myanmar’s first national census in 30 years – was undertaken by the Ministry of Immigration and Population with technical support from UNFPA between 30th March and 10th April 2014, according to Myanmar Information Management Unit.
Earlier, Myanmar circulated a picture showing ‘insurgent training’, which is actually a photograph of freedom fighters during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
The Myanmar military later issued a rare apology acknowledging that two photographs it published in a book on the crisis over the Rohingya Muslim minority were ‘published incorrectly’.