Myanmar map ‘mistake’ sparks diplomatic spat with Bangladesh

Source: OneMap Myanmar

Bangladesh’s foreign ministry summoned the Myanmar ambassador in Dhaka over the weekend over a map that appeared on Myanmar government websites showing a Bangladeshi island as part of Myanmar’s territory.

The map, which appeared on the website of OneMap Myanmar, which is run by Myanmar’s Department of Population in partnership with international NGOs, showed land cover data for St. Martin’s Island, which is located off the coast of Rakhine State but is legally the southernmost point within Bangladesh. The map reportedly appeared on at least one other government website.

Md. Khurshed Alam, the secretary of the Maritime Affairs Unit within Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, summoned Myanmar ambassador Lwin Oo on Saturday and reportedly scolded him: “You can’t do it. On what basis you did it?”

When the Myanmar ambassador described the flawed maps as a “mistake”, the Bangladeshi official reportedly accused the Myanmar government of committing a deliberate provocation and said the ministry feared an “ulterior motive” behind the mistake.

St. Martin’s Island became part of Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947, and then part of Bangladesh following the partition of Pakistan in 1971. Nonetheless, Myanmar disputed Bangladesh’s claim, and in several incidents between 1998 and 2000, Myanmar Navy troops and Border Guard Forces shot and killed Bangladeshi fishermen off the island’s coast. In 2012, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea affirmed Bangladesh’s sovereignty over the island.

Following the diplomatic dispute on Saturday, the map was amended overnight to remove the land cover data on the island. However, the island still appeared in the same color as Rakhine State rather than the color of Bangladeshi territory.

A committee in the Bangladeshi parliament instructed the foreign ministry to monitor other Myanmar websites for false maps.

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