Excessive military presence a barrier to peace and development in CHT: JSS representative in EMRIP


Hill Voice, 18 July 2023, International Desk: Representative of Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) Augustina Chakma said in the 16th Session of Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) being held in Geneva of Switzerland that excessive military presence remains a barrier to peace and development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).

PCJSS representative also said ‘The military’s control extends beyond security matters. It permeates administration, law and order, and development programs, undermining the autonomy and well-being of the indigenous communities. This stifles the effective implementation of the CHT Accord, which was intended to address their legitimate grievances.’

PCJSS representative said these while presenting her statement on Agenda Item 3: Study and Advice on the impact of militarization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in 16th Session of EMRIP held in the evening in Geneva on 17 July 2023.

This 16th Session of the UNEMRIP started on 17 July and will continue till 21st July.

JSS representative Miss Augustina Chakma while presenting her Statement said ‘Today, I stand before you with a deep sense of concern regarding the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and the urgent need to address the challenges faced by the indigenous Jumma peoples.’

She said ‘The CHT Accord, signed in 1997, was meant to bring an end to the three-decade-long military rule in the region and the withdrawal of temporary military camps. However, progress has been painfully slow. Over 25 years, only 100 camps have been removed out of more than 500, and new camps continue to appear in place of the old ones. According to the IWGIA’s study, there is currently one member of the security forces for every 40 indigenous people. This excessive military presence remains a barrier to peace and development in the CHT.’

She said ‘Furthermore, the labeling of indigenous rights activists as “terrorists,” “miscreants,” and “separatists” only exacerbates the divisions and marginalization they face. It is disheartening to witness such treatment when the same military is respected for its UN peacekeeping efforts abroad.’

The JSS representative, urging the Human Rights Council and the Expert Mechanism to exert pressure on the Bangladesh government, said that ‘We must demand the complete withdrawal of temporary military camps from the CHT and a thorough screening process for military personnel participating in UN peacekeeping missions. By doing so, we can ensure that the rights and dignity of the indigenous peoples in the CHT are respected and upheld.’

In conclusion, She said, ‘let us stand together in solidarity, raising our voices for justice and peace in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.’