Bangladesh and Burma send warships into Bay of Bengal
Written By burmaonlinecentre on Sunday, 4 August 2013 | 23:03
Bangladesh and Burma, two of the world's poorest nations, have sent warships into the Bay of Bengal amid escalating tensions over a vast disputed gas find.
Bangladesh said today it had sent a British-made frigate, the BNS Kopothakka, to join three other warships some 30 miles south of Saint Martin Island, a palm fringed smudge of sand. The Burmese authorities estimate that 14 trillion cubic feet of gas lies beneath the sea floor.
The military-backed government in Dhaka, which is preparing to transfer power through elections, has said it will take "all possible measures" to protect its nation's assets. The country is also sending its top foreign civil servant to meet with the military junta in Burma.
The row was sparked by the appearance of a Burmese exploration ship escorted by a flotilla of naval boats that skirted the edge of the island last week.
Bangladesh insists the disputed waters fall within its territory and has demanded the Burmese ships withdraw until a maritime boundary can be established through talks.
This is the same argument used by the junta in Rangoon to defend its ships. The senior official from Burma's foreign ministry told Reuters: "We have no reason to stop the exploration activities since these blocks are located in our exclusive economic zone. We will go ahead with it.
"Analysts say the two impoverished nations both want to control as much of the energy rich Bay of Bengal as possible. However, Burma's regime has come to view hydrocarbon wealth as essential for its survival – making a looming clash with Bangladesh a potentially dangerous flashpoint.
In the last year, Burma earned $2.6bn from selling gas. Not only can the military generals buy off bigger neighbours such as China and India, the exports insulate the country from western sanctions.
A report by the Asian Development Bank earlier this year, warned sales of natural gas were creating growing trade surpluses and a valuable buffer for Burma's ruling generals.