Archive for March, 2010

Ethnic violence and human rights abuses in Chittagong

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2010 by bd79

Arrived back in Dhaka on Friday, after spending the last month travelling around Cambodia. It is a fantastic country and it was great to be able to relax for a few weeks. To be honest I don’t think I realised how much I needed the break.

It was my first day back in the office today and it was really good to see all my friends and colleagues from Uttaran again. Unfortunately the news in the rest of Bangladesh hasn’t been so good while I have been away.

Since late February there have been a number of violent clashes between Bengali settlers and the indigenous communities in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The CHT is in the southeast of the country and borders India and Myanmar (Burma). There is quite a long history of violence in the region but things have settled down since a peace accord was signed between the Government of Bangladesh and the tribal rebels in 1997 but tensions are ongoing.

The trouble began after a demonstration by indigenous groups came under attack from the army and Bengali settlers. Two indigenous people were killed and number of others injured, whist many houses have been burnt down both during the initial violence and in the following days. The VSO Volunteers working in the area had to be evacuated, although most have now been able to return as the security situation has stabilised.

Amnesty International has called on the Government of Bangladesh to investigate the deaths of the two indigenous people and the role of the army in the violence. The Bangladeshi parliamentary body for the CHT has promised to take prompt action against those responsible for the violence but at the moment there has been no indication that this will include investigating the actions of the army. If you want to petition the Government of Bangladesh for full implementation of the 1997 peace accord you can do so at Global Voices for Peace in the CHT.

The flood affected communities in the southwest have also been facing difficulties. Several embankments in Khulna district collapsed on Monday and Wednesday of last week, leaving thousands of poor households homeless. The Government has said that the army will step in to take charge of repairing the embankments damaged by cyclone Aila if they have not been repaired by the wet season. However, that could mean help is still months away and army involvement may lead to the embankments being constructed with little regard given to the communities needs or the environmental impact. Uttaran is continuing to work on the issue and hopefully we will be able to get a resolution before the rains come.

Will keep you all updated on any developments and hopefully I’ll have some happier news to report in my next post.