Friday, August 7, 2009

Quicknote: CHT Pullout Begins

The Army began its pullout from the Chittagong Hill Tracts with two temporary camps being dismantled and their troops redeployed. Whether the camps are temporary or permanent is largely irrelevant. The important item is that the Bangladesh Army is being returned to barracks, its presence is being replaced by national law enforcement officers and border patrol units. And of course, the Awami League government is honoring the 1997 Peace Treaty.

The Bengali settler organization Samo Odhikar Andolan and its student wing, the previously mentioned Parbattya Bangalee Chhatra Parishad, reiterated their opposition to the pullout and vowed hartals and blockades (Daily Star). The settler organization must learn that such a violent protest will only hinder the CHT in the long-run, economically and socially. If there is to be lasting peace in the CHT, Bengali settlers and Adhivasi groups must set aside their differences and work together.

For his part, Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma (Santu Larma) president of the Bangladesh Forum for Indigenous People, demanded a time frame for the removal of the remaining security camps and noted that "land-grabbing" of Adhivasi's land has not ceased (Daily Star). A time frame though politically delicate, could prove useful for the government. Like US President Barak Obama's Iraq timetable, the CHT timetable does not need to be quick, nor ridged and could be subject to the security situation in the Hill Tracts. The establishment of a timeline would also demonstrate the Awami League's dedication to transparency.

As was previously mentioned, the rights of the Adhivasi communities must be protected. Land-grabbing, the seizing of Adhivasi land by individuals without compensation, needs to cease. The land that has been grabbed should be returned or compensated. Finally, land demarcation commissions should be setup and surveys implemented. On this point, Bangla Nation and the SOA/PBCP are in agreement.

The land, upon which the two dismantled camps were built, has been given back to their original owners. However, they are prohibited from building structures on them until 2011 according to the terms of the rental agreement with the Army. This was a good move, if the Army needs to return and re-build a security camp there will not be bad blood with the original owners. The government has committed to withdrawing 35 camps total and a brigade. About 10 camps will be withdrawn from Khagrachhari, 9 from Rangamati, and an unspecified number from Bandarban - however, the numbers from Khagrachhari and Rangamati were not final (Daily Star).
Addendum: On Wednesday, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Commission announced that it would launch a land survey next month (Daily Star).

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