NEW DELHI (AP) — About 340 members of Myanmar’s Border Guard Police and soldiers have fled into Bangladesh during fighting with an ethnic minority army, Bangladesh’s foreign minister said Thursday.

Hasan Mahmud said 340 security personnel had entered Bangladesh by Wednesday. He said Bangladesh is having discussions with Myanmar’s government about the issue and that it is willing to take them back.

Mahmud made the comments while on a visit to India, his first since becoming foreign minister last month.

Earlier this week, Bangladesh’s border agency said some Myanmar troops had entered in recent days during fighting with the Arakan Army in Myanmar’s Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh. It was the first time that Myanmar forces have been known to flee into Bangladesh since an alliance of ethnic minority armies in Myanmar launched an offensive against the military government late last year.

Officials said the troops that entered had been disarmed and taken to safe places.

Mahmud said he had also raised the issue with India, which shares a 1,643-kilometer (1,020-mile) border with Myanmar and is home to thousands of refugees from Myanmar in different states. Indian officials in November estimated that thousands had entered northeastern states in India to flee heavy fighting in Myanmar’s western Chin state.

Separately on Thursday, India’s Home Ministry announced that it would end visa-free movement between India and Myanmar “to ensure the internal security of the country.” The Free Movement Regime, as it is known, is an agreement between the two countries that allows people living along the border to travel up to 16 kilometers (10 miles) inside the other country without a visa.

The Arakan Army is the military wing of the Rakhine ethnic minority that seeks autonomy from Myanmar’s central government. It has been attacking army outposts in the western state since November.

It is part of an alliance of ethnic minority armies called the Three Brotherhood Alliance that launched an offensive in October and gained strategic territory in Myanmar’s northeast bordering China. Its success was seen as a major defeat for the military government, which seized power in February 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and is now embroiled in a wide-ranging civil war.

Bangladesh shares a 271-kilometer (168-mile) border with Buddhist-dominated Myanmar and hosts more than 1 million Muslim Rohingya refugees, many of whom fled from Myanmar starting in August 2017 when its military launched a brutal “clearance operation” against them following attacks by an insurgent group.

Brought to you by