By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
DHAKA, Bangladesh – Government officials say that the Bangladesh border guards that rebelled against the government over conditions and pay have surrendered. The mutiny began on February 25th at the Dhaka headquarters of a paramilitary unit called the Bangladesh Rifles. An army helicopter patrolling above the barracks was shot at and mortar rounds were also fired.
By the next day, the mutiny spread to 12 different towns and cities where border guards seized control of their barracks. Police chief of the Moulivibazar district told the AFP news agency that the border guards were “firing indiscriminately.” Reports said some border guards took their officers hostage, and in others they forced them to leave. Schools in Dhaka and the surrounding areas were closed for the day and mobile phone service was suspended across the country in a bid to stop the rebellion spreading.
A government spokesperson said the situation is now under control despite sounds of gunfire in the capital. The situation in other parts of the country, where paramilitary forces remain at large is still unclear.
The mutinous border guards were demanding better wages and new bosses. They surrendered after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina warned the guards would face “tough action” if they didn’t surrender. “Lay down your guns immediately and go back to barracks … Do not force me to take tough actions or push my patience,” she said. On Thursday, tanks rolled into the capital to backup. About 50 people have died in the violence.
Hasina offered to pardon the guards if they surrender and return to the post. A representative of the guards told the media they were surrendering because the Prime Minister agreed to look into their grievances.
There are 70,000 border guards in 42 camps across the country. The border guards are responsible for securing boarders and provide backup for the army and police.
Indian border officials told the media they will close their borders near Bangladesh and remain vigilant.
For more information, please see:
BBC – Bangladesh Guard Mutiny is ‘Over’– 26 February 2009
FT – Amnesty deal ends border guard mutiny in Bangladesh – 26 February 2009
VOA – Bangladesh Say Mutinous Guards Surrender– 26 February 2009