Bangladesh asks border troops to shoot smugglers

DHAKA Mon Jan 19, 2009 2:48pm IST

DHAKA Jan 19 (Reuters) - Bangladesh has ordered its border troops to "shoot on sight" to stop the smuggling of goods, especially fertiliser, out of the country, a senior security official said on Monday.

Bangladesh's new government cut fertiliser prices by more than half and that of diesel by 4.35 percent last week in line with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's promise to help farmers grow more rice and help build food security for the country's more than 140 million people.

Fertilisers are a key input for farming while diesel is required to run irrigation systems in the fields.

Government officials said they feared the price cuts could lead to more smuggling of those commodities to neighbouring India and Myanmar, where prices for those inputs are often higher.

Bangladesh shares a 4,000-km (2,500-mile), porous border with India. "The authorities have ordered Bangladesh Rifles (paramilitary border guards) to shoot on sight, if required, to check the smuggling, on top of normal patrolling," a Rifles spokesman told Reuters.

Bangladesh's annual fertiliser demand is around 2.85 million tonnes, of which 1.7 million tonnes are produced at home and the rest imported, mainly from the Middle East, China, Tunisia and Australia.

Hasina took office on Jan. 6 following her party's landslide victory in the Dec. 29 parliamentary election that returned the south Asian country to democracy after two years of rule by an army-backed interim government. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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