Saint Martin Island Isolated Amid Myanmar Border Gunfire

Saint Martin Island Isolated

Saint Martin Island Isolated

Saint Martin, the only coral island in Bangladesh, is experiencing a severe crisis due to ongoing gunfire from the Myanmar border. The conflict has led to a halt in maritime travel, isolating the island and leaving its 10,000 residents struggling for basic necessities.

Background of the Crisis

For the past six days, Myanmar soldiers have reportedly been firing shots towards Bangladeshi boats. This gunfire has targeted vessels traveling between Teknaf in Cox's Bazar and Saint Martin, effectively cutting off the island. Local sources confirmed three separate incidents of shooting, with the most recent occurring on Tuesday when a speedboat was fired upon in the Gholchar area.

Residents in Panic

The continuous shooting has induced widespread panic among the islanders. Speedboat owner Syed Alam recounted how a speedboat carrying a sick patient was fired upon by Myanmar military vessels. Although no injuries were reported, the incident heightened fears among the locals. "We are now in a state of panic in St. Martin," Syed Alam expressed, highlighting the community's vulnerability without Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) or Coast Guard patrols in the area.

Food and Supply Shortages

The isolation has led to a critical shortage of food and daily necessities. Habibur Rahman, a resident of Saint Martin, stated, "There is no provision for keeping extra food in St. Martin. Every day various kinds of daily goods come from Teknaf in trawlers. But nothing is coming for 6 days." The island's reliance on daily shipments means that stores are running out of essential supplies, with prices of remaining goods skyrocketing. Aminul Islam, a local grocer, lamented the empty shelves, saying, "There is no goods except rice. If this continues, the people of the island will have to go without food."

Local Administration's Response

Despite the dire situation, the local administration is yet to provide effective solutions. Teknaf Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Mohammad Adnan Chowdhury mentioned plans to open an emergency route via the jetty west of Shahpari Island. However, logistical challenges and risks due to rising water levels make this route difficult to utilize.

Calls for Immediate Action

Mujibur Rahman, Chairman of Saint Martin's Union Parishad, emphasized the urgency of the situation, warning of potential major shortages and healthcare crises. "If we have any disease, then we will have to die here without treatment. This situation cannot continue day after day," he stated, urging the administration to expedite their response.

Diplomatic Efforts

On the diplomatic front, Bangladesh's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has lodged protests with Myanmar. Md. Mainul Kabir, Director General of the Myanmar wing, affirmed ongoing diplomatic efforts but acknowledged the complexity of the situation due to the instability in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

As Saint Martin remains cut off, its residents face mounting anxiety and a struggle for survival. Urgent action from both local authorities and diplomatic channels is imperative to restore safe passage and supply lines, ensuring the well-being of the island's inhabitants. The coming days will be crucial in determining how effectively these challenges are addressed to alleviate the crisis in Saint Martin.


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