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Calls for action after attacks on Chittagong tribals

Hundreds flee homes in southeastern Bangladesh

Calls for action after attacks on Chittagong tribals

A tribal woman from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (photo by Chandan Robert Rebeiro) reporter, Dhaka

August 7, 2013

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A Bangladeshi rights group has condemned recent attacks on tribal people in the country’s southeast by Bengali Muslim settlers, and called on the government to take punitive measures against perpetrators of the violence and inactive law enforcers.

In a press statement released today, the International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, an NGO overseeing rights issues in the troubled Chittagong Hill Tracts area, said it was alarmed with the increasing level of violence in the area and the questionable role of the law enforcement agencies in the area.

“The Commission calls upon them to discharge their law enforcement duties with the highest level of integrity and impartiality,” the statement said.

Hundreds of Bengali settlers on Saturday attacked five villages in Khagrachhari district, close to the border with Myanmar and India, and assaulted tribals and burned down dozens of homes. The rampage began after the rumoured kidnapping of a Bengali man by an insurgent tribal militia group, the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF).

The UPDF opposes the peace treaty signed in 1997 to end armed conflict between tribal insurgents and government forces in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, but which the government failed to implement. The failure has been a root cause of ongoing violence.

No casualties were reported from the Saturday attacks, but quoting Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) officials, the Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported that at least 1,500 tribal Tripura and Chakma people fled their homes and took shelter at the border near the Indian state of Tripura.

IANS reported that tribals were blocked by border security forces from entering Indian territory, but provided them food and shelter.

Officials said that tribals began returning home on Sunday and are being rehabilitated.

“The situation is calm now and about 1,500 tribal people who fled their home have started to return home. The army and border guards are offering them food, shelter and medical assistance,” said Dr Mahey Alam, chief government official of Matiranga sub-district, which covers the violence-hit villages.

Additional Superintendent of Police in Khagrachhari Joynul Abedin said that a case was filed by a local tribal man against 162 people for the attacks, with four people arrested so far.

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