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BD wins maritime suit against Myanmar

March 15, 2012 00:00:00

FE Report
Bangladesh Wednesday won the legal battle with neighbouring Myanmar over the maritime boundary dispute in the Bay of Bengal, as an international tribunal verdict went in favour of the country, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) sources said.
"The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on March 14, 2012 sustained Bangladesh's claims to a full 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone in the Bay of Bengal, and to a substantial share of the outer continental shelf beyond 200 miles," said a MoFA statement.
"This is a great day for Bangladesh," Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni said in an instant reaction after listening to the verdict from President of the Tribunal, the statement quoted her as saying.
Judge José Luis Jesus, of Cape Verde, read the judgment at main courtroom of the tribunal in Hamburg, Germany Wednesday.
"The judgment is final and without appeal," the statement said.
The ITLOS sustained Bangladesh's claims to a full 200-mile exclusive economic zone in the Bay of Bengal, and to a substantial share of the outer continental shelf beyond 200 miles.
Bangladesh demanded 107,000 square kilometres (sq-km) in the Bay of Bengal, but the ITLOS verdict awarded the country with 111,000 sq-km, according to the MoFA sources.
The ruling, by a vote of 21 to one, brings to a conclusion the case, initiated by Bangladesh against Myanmar in December 2009, to resolve a longstanding dispute regarding the maritime boundary between the two neighbouring states in the oil-and-gas rich Bay, the statement said.
"All of our strategic objectives were achieved," the Foreign Minister was quoted as saying, according to the statement.
"Bangladesh's full access to the high seas out to 200 miles and beyond is now recognised and guaranteed, as are our undisputed rights to the fish in our water and the natural resources beneath our seabed," she said.
The Tribunal also awarded Bangladesh a full 12-mile territorial sea around St. Martin's Island, overruling Myanmar's argument that it should be cut in half, she said.
"The people of Bangladesh are deeply connected to and dependent on the Bay of Bengal, both as a source of nutrition and for employment. The legal certainty afforded by this ruling will ensure that we will be able to maximise the benefit of this important resource for our people, while at the same time ensuring long-term sustainability," Dr. Dipu Moni said.
"Energy-starved Bangladesh's exploration for petroleum and natural gas in the Bay of Bengal, long delayed by conflicting boundary claims, can now proceed."
"Today's ruling constitutes the equitable solution that Bangladesh has long desired, but was unable to obtain during 38 years of diplomatic stalemate preceding the lawsuit," she said.
The bold and visionary decision of the Prime Minister to seek a binding judicial resolution of this longstanding dispute has been vindicated, she added.
"But it is a victory for both of the states. Because it finally resolves - peacefully and according to international law - a problem that had hampered their economic development for more than three decades. We salute Myanmar for its willingness to resolve this matter by legal means and for its acceptance of the tribunal's judgment," she added.
Myanmar had claimed that its maritime boundary with Bangladesh cut directly across the Bangladesh coastline, severely truncating Bangladesh's maritime jurisdiction to a narrow wedge of sea not extending beyond 130 miles.
Myanmar had also claimed that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to award continental shelf rights beyond 200 miles from either state's coast. The tribunal rejected both of these arguments, said the MoFA statement.
The ITLOS was established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to adjudicate disputes between states concerning issues covered by the convention, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries.
The 151-page judgment is the first by any court or tribunal to delimit the maritime area beyond 200 miles, known as the "outer continental shelf", and is certain to establish an important precedent in that regard, the statement said.
"We are very pleased with the expertise, fairness and efficiency of the ITLOS and its judges," said Bangladesh's Foreign Minister.
"The case was resolved, from beginning to end, in a little over two years. This is unprecedented for judicial efficiency in a maritime boundary case," she added.
As the agent of Bangladesh in the proceedings the Foreign Minister presided over an eminent legal team, including the deputy agent, Rear Admiral (Ret) Md. Khurshed Alam, as well as attorneys James Crawford, Philippe Sands and Alan Boyle of the United Kingdom, Paul Reichler and Lawrence Martin of the United States and Payam Akhavan of Canada.
Myanmar was represented by its agent, Attorney General Tun Shin. Its counsel included Alain Pellet and Mathias Forteau of France, Sir Michael Wood of the UK, and Coalter Lathrop of the US.
Bangladesh filed a lawsuit on December 14, 2010, with the ITLOS after Myanmar sent a flotilla to explore petroleum inside Bangladesh's extended territorial water.
Bangladesh placed all necessary facts and figures before the tribunal on July 1, 2010, while Myanmar did the same on December 1, 2010.

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