The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission is shocked at the death of eight Indigenous Bawm men and expresses deep concern at continued human rights violations in the CHT
12 April 2023
The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission is shocked at the death of eight indigenous Bawm men and expresses deep concern at continued human rights violations in the CHT
The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) is deeply concerned about the death of eight indigenous Bawm men in an alleged ‘gunfight’ at Rowangchari Upazila in Bandarban on 6 April 2023.
Quoting security officials, various media reported that all the killed persons belong to the indigenous Bawm Christian community and are members of the Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF)1. They allegedly died when a gunfight broke out between KNF and UPDF (Democratic)2. Newagebd further mentioned that the KNF denied the deceased to be their members, and they claimed that the victims were innocent villagers3.
Meanwhile, on 9 April 2023, the United Workers Democratic Front, Greater Chittagong Hill Students’ Association, Hill Women’s Federation, and Democratic Youth Forum organized a protest rally in Dhaka against the incident. They alleged that in the early morning of 6 April 2023, state-sponsored vigilante groups kidnapped 22 unarmed local Bawm villagers from Jurbharang Para of Paindu Union in Ruma. After keeping them hostages at a local school, the vigilante group executed eight Bawm villagers and released the rest. The speakers further claimed that mainstream media is trying to hide the truth.4 Humanity Protection Forum, a human rights organization based in Tripura of India, in a press statement – claimed the same. If these allegations are indeed true, this is a deliberate and targeted massacre against the Bawm community, one of CHT's smallest indigenous groups. The CHTC demands an immediate and impartial judicial investigation into the exact circumstances of the events.
For a long time now, the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samity (PCJSS) and the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF), the two leading political parties of CHT, have been alleging activities of various state-sponsored vigilante groups in CHT who want to foil the implementation of the CHT Accord. According to their reports, 44 members of UPDF and 32 members of PCJSS were killed between 2017-2021 by these vigilante groups. Further, recently, on 2 April 2023, Hlaching Mong Marma (Usha), a Jumma political activist, was allegedly tortured to death by the Bengali settlers in Manikchari Upazila of Khagrachari district, and on 4 April 2023, Tridiv Chakma, another political activist was shot to death by vigilante groups in Dighinala Upazila of Khagrachari5. The two political parties have also reported numerous incidents of harassment, torture, illegal detention, and arrests by security forces in the last few years. Last month, two Parbatya Chattagram Pahari Chatra Parishad (PCP) activists were released on bail from the Bandarban jail on 15 March 2023 and were allegedly re-arrested by the military from the jail gate6.
The CHT Commission is very alarmed at all this unrest unfolding in CHT and the continued human rights violations. We believe this results from the non-implementation of the CHT Accord even after a quarter-century of its signature. To ensure long-lasting peace and stability in CHT, we recommend the following to the government of Bangladesh:
• To initiate a judicial investigation into the killing of eight Bawm Indigenous men, identify the perpetrators, and ensure justice.
• To ensure the safety of the local Bawm Indigenous community and take immediate measures to bring back a few hundred Bawm refugees who have fled to India since last October and provide urgent support to the people who have been internally displaced.
• To stop criminalizing Indigenous rights activists, withdraw all the fabricated court cases filed against them, and allow them to return to normal life.
• To conduct impartial and prompt investigations into the continued alleged human rights violations in CHT and ensure justice to the victims and accountability for those responsible.
• To demilitarize the CHT and to take steps to fully implement the 1997 CHT Accord and prevent all types of anti-accord directives and activities.
On behalf of the CHT Commission,
5 According to the press statement released by Humanity Protection Forum and statements released by UPDF.
Tags: Human rights