Amnesty International’s letter to CHT Affairs Minister urging to protect the indigenous Mros from forced eviction

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Hill Voice, 23 November 2020, Special Reporter: International human rights organization ‘Amnesty International’ has sent a letter to Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing, Minister of CHT Affairs Ministry expressing concern about the construction of five-star hotel in CHT which could lead to the forced eviction of the Mro indigenous people from their ancestral lands and urging to protect the Mro people from this eviction.

The letter signed by Omar Waraich, head of the organization’s South Asia branch, on November 22, expressed concern that the construction of a five-star hotel at Chimbuk in Bandarban in the Chittagong Hill Tracts would evict the Mro people from their ancestral lands.

The letter said that the luxurious five-star hotel to be built on the route between Chimbuk and Thanchi will eventually wipe out villages, forcibly evict a large number of the Mro people and destroy the social, economic, traditional and cultural fabric of the Mro Indigenous community. The construction of the hotel will damage sacred sites, forests, water resources and biodiversity of the Mro and other indigenous peoples of the region. The construction of a five-star hotel under these circumstances would violate the Bangladeshi authorities’ responsibility and commitment to protect and promote the rights of the indigenous peoples, rather than providing the indigenous community with the necessary support to realize their own development plans.

The letter further said that the hotel and associated projects may ultimately lead to the direct and indirect taking away of at least 800 acres of land of the indigenous people in violation of the customary laws of the community. The action also contravenes Bangladesh’s commitment to protect the ‘institutions, persons, property and labour of these populations’ under the ILO Indigenous and Tribal Population Convention, 1957. Article 11 of the Convention further states that the ‘right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations concerned over the lands which these populations traditionally occupy shall be recognized’, and Article 13 (2) provides that “arrangements shall be made to prevent persons who are not members of the populations concerned from taking advantage of these customs or of lack of understanding of the laws on the part of the members of these populations to secure the ownership or use of the lands belonging to such members.”

‘Furthermore, the hotel’s construction, on the land belonging to indigenous peoples, would violate Bangladesh’s constitutional obligation to ‘protect and develop the unique local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities.’

In the letter, the Bangladesh government through Bir Bahadur, Minister of the CHT Affairs Ministry has been urged to immediately abandon the construction of the luxury hotel on Chimbuk-Thanchi route, and ensure that any further construction or establishment in the indigenous land respects the free prior and informed consent of the community; to protect and develop the lives and livelihood of the indigenous peoples in line with Bangladesh’s commitment in its constitution and international human rights law.

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