5 hundred indigenous families migrate to Arakan due to insecurity in Bangladesh and alluring policy of Myanmar

It came to knowledge that more than five hundred indigenous families from remote rural localities of Alikadam, Thanchi, Naikhyongchari, Lama upazilas (sub-districts) of Bandarban Hill District had already migrated to Arakan (Rakhine State) of Myanmar during the last 4 to 5 years under sheer pressure of lacking security to life and property, deprivation of potential services, shrinkage of shifting cultivation areas, severe scarcity of livelihood means – all of which led them to step on allurement trap laid by the government of Myanmar. The indigenous families migrated to Arakan include: Mro, Marma and Tanchangya-Chakma ethnic indigenous groups. Besides, it is also learnt that a few number of Tripura indigenous families also found their path along with the migrants.

Field investigation reveals that the indigenous families are getting inspired in setting sail to Arakan of Myanmar amidst various forms of exclusion, deprivation, suppression, oppression and lacking of security. The indigenous peoples are at their extreme point of suffering insecurity due to creating bar, by different means, from practicing traditional Jum cultivation by the  of the Forest Department and security forces including Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). Further, scarcity of lands for Jum cultivation owing to population growth, giving thousand acres of Mouza lands and Jum-cultivation lands in leases to the outsiders, threat and attacks of the lease owners aimed at dislocating the indigenous peoples, illegal occupation of indigenous peoples’ lands by the Bengali settlers and Rohingya people, fear of further infiltration and forcible land occupation by Bengali settlers and Rohingyas, land acquisition for establishment of camps of security forces and BGB adjacent to the indigenous peoples’ localities, intimidation of security forces, denudation of forests, lacking of drinking water, etc compelled the indigenous inhabitants to move to a safer place to live in.

Torture and forced labour:

It is further alleged that the security forces and BGB forcefully engage the local indigenous people to clear the surrounding jungles of their camps without any payment thereof. Sometimes, the locals have to provide with materials, (for example, bamboos, wood) for constructing camps and they are forced to work as labourer during the construction. Moreover, indigenous peoples have to supply cows, goats, hens to the camps at least once in a month and that too at nominal cost. Besides, security forces order villagers to be present in the camp time to time, frequently carry out searching operation, arbitrary arrest, physical torture and intimidation without any valid reason.

Further, security personnel provide support to Bengali settlers to occupy lands belonging to indigenous villagers. A Bengali settler named Md. Sultan living close to Bulai Mro Para is an illustration of the kind. Now he has found his permanent settlement in Renkhum Mro Para. Initially, he used to sell dry fish moving from place to place but now he is a possessor of vast amount of lands. Whenever there rises up dispute over land, he submits the issue to the local security camp stationed at Bulai Mro Para and the camp authority always pronounces judgment over land dispute in favor of Md. Sultan. As a result, Sultan has become a panic to the Mro indigenous community.

Creating fear and panic in the name of Rohingya settlement

These illiterate and remote-rural indigenous peoples are afraid of Rohingya or Bengali people at sighting. The Rohingyas and Bengali settlers go propagating that the Rohingyas will be rehabilitated in the lands of indigenous peoples and the indigenous peoples will not be allowed to stay there. This kind of propaganda is being spread with a view to abandon their ancestral lands and homesteads. For instance, the illegal land grabbers and Bengali miscreants equipped with firearms threatened the indigenous Chak families of Satgajjai Chak Para under Naikhyongchari Mouza of Naikhyongchari sadar upazila and consequently, the Chak families compelled to abandon their village on 14 February 2018. More 21 Chak families living in Badujhiri Chak Para of Naikhyongchari upazila were also evicted from their lands and homesteads in April 2014.

Harassment with false forest cases:

The inclusion of Bengali settlers as beneficiaries under Social Forestry Project being implemented by the Forest Department (FD) has strengthened Bengali infiltration in CHT from the plains. The Bengali settlers stealthily cut down bamboos and trees from the forest and carry them away. However, FD accuses innocent indigenous villagers for destroying the forest and regularly they filled false cases against indigenous peoples. Sometimes, this leads them to the jail. This type of forest case against local indigenous villagers is one of the reason of feeling insecure and compelling to leave for Arakan.

Presence of armed extremists:

It is further learnt that the religious armed extremists have already had their position in inaccessible deep forest of Naikhyongchari Upazila. They prevent the local indigenous people from Jum cultivation in the hill slopes there. Many of the indigenous villagers fall prey to attack, abduction and killing by this religious extremists whenever the villagers happen to go inside the forest for tending cattle or fishing in the streams and collection of bamboos or edible forest vegetables. For instance, the extremists abducted one indigenous person from the Purba Boroitali village of Garjanbonia area under Gundum Union of Naikhyongchari Upazila on 27 November 2017. Later on, he got released with the help of local Bengali people. The Rohingya extremists slaughtered one Buddhist priest by hacking in Naikhyongchari on 15 May 2015. They also abducted 3 Marma villagers while fishing in the streams in 2015. The victims did not return to their homes and not any trace of their whereabouts was found out.

Alluring propaganda or real?

On the other side, some broker racket of local indigenous villagers are found spreading news saying that on arrival in Arakan, the migrants are being promptly provided with cash money, monthly ration – a 3 year package including cultivable lands, cows for ploughing and agricultural equipment for cultivation. The indigenous families have left for Arakan simply relying on such hearsay news. Believing upon such propagation, hundreds of families from Alikadam, Lama, Naikhyongchari and Thanchi Upazilas of Bandarban Hill District have left the country and went into Arakan with a high hope of leading secured life and livelihood. For instance, once there were more than 400 Mro villages in Poamuri Union under Alikadam Upazila where there are only 20 Mro villlages are to be found instead. The cultivable silt and muddy lands in and around these villages are now being forcibly occupied and utilized by the Bengali settlers. In consequence to the trend, it is learnt that some 300 Mro indigenous families went to Arakan with the help of the brokers in 2014-15 on per family payment of BDT 5,000 to the brokers.

It is learnt from the recent investigation that relying on such alluring propagation, altogether 139 persons grouped in 26 families from 9 villages of Ward No. 5 under Kurukpata Union having common boundary with Alikadam Sadar Union of Bandarban Hill District left for Arakan within 6 months since October 2017. Besides, 4 Chakma and 4 Tanchangya families from Basudeb Karbari Chakma Para of Nayapara Union under Alikadam Upazila went off to Myanmar in the last month. Apart from the above, two more list of Myanmar-migrated indigenous people who went during the recent years have been received. Of them were 146 families from Noyapara Union and 121 families from Kurukpata Union of Alikadam upazila.

Endless miseries:

It is further learnt that on 14 March 2018, simply believing upon the hearsay, one Pro Oai Mro (40), s/o Late Young Mro of Ralai Mro Para under Kurukpata Union bordered with Alikadam Sadar Union, left for Arakan along with his wife and 4 sons. After an exhausting walk of 6 kilometers, while crossing the Myanmar border, the family came under landmine explosion that left Pro Oai Mro spot dead and his wife and two sons seriously wounded. The wounded were taken to Chittagong Medical College Hospital. It is learnt that many migration-seeking-indigenous people died and wounded in similar landmine explosions while crossing the Myanmar border. Even many such families died and wounded in crossfire exchanged between the rebels and government forces. It may also be added that following the militant attack upon the Myanmar Police posts on 25 August 2017, many migrated indigenous families from Bangladesh came under attack of Rohingya rebels and got killed.

It is also learnt that many indigenous families who had gone to Myanmar, returned back to Bangladesh for not receiving any facilities from the government. They were not properly provided ration (food grains), house and land as promised. Instead of providing house facility, they are kept in makeshift. Now, many indigenous families are living in endless miseries  inside Bangladesh after returning from Myanmar.

Community initiative to stop border crossing

In this backdrop, the local human rights activists belonging to Mro, Tanchangya and Marma of Bandarban Hill District have embarked upon a campaign tour in Alikadam, Lama, Thanchi and Naikhyongchari Upazilas. They are conducting group discussions from village to village in the remote locations, holding courtyard meetings and discussions with the key personnel of the indigenous villagers preventing them from leaving for Myanmar and telling them that they would fall prey to inexplicable troubles associated with deprivation and deception. Instead, they campaigners are inspiring the indigenous people to throw away confusion and start cultivation and other livelihood means in own country.

Administrative action:

Alikadam upazila administration held an emergency meeting on Social Security with the Chairmen and UP members from 4 Union Councils in the Upazila Parishad Conference hall on 15 March 2018. In the meeting, the Upazila Executive Officer of Alikadam Mr. Mohammed Amirul Kaiser affirmed that the rumor that goes: ‘On arrival in Arakan of Myanmar, the government will provide land for cultivation, cow and agricultural equipments, place to live and cash money’ has become a great deal of talk among the indigenous peoples’ society in Alikadam Upazila. He informed that some indigenous families went away simply believing upon such rumor.

In this circumstance, the local administration, with a view to fostering a sense among the indigenous peoples whereby they will review their decision of leaving the country relying on the much-talked-about, has opened up several programs, such as, Program for Employment of the hardcore poor, Food for Work Program, Vulnerable Group Facility (VGF) and General Reliefs (GR) Program.

In this regard, Mohammed Abul Kalam, Chairman of Alikadam Upazila Parishad said that some people of indigenous origin from Alikadam Upazila left for Myanmar during the last year. Still to some more families, the possibility of leaving for Myanmar secretly cannot be ruled out as to this day. He opined that immediate and effective measure to prevent such departure should be undertaken on part of the local administration.

Main Cause Behind the Migration

The CHT Accord was signed on 2nd December 1997 between the government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), the political party of indigenous Jumma peoples in CHT, with an aim to resolve the CHT crisis. Despite having more than 20 years passed after signing the CHT Accord, the core issues of the Accord have been left unimplemented as yet. The core issues include: devolution of functions to the CHT Regional Council and three Hill District Councils; preservation of Jumma-predominant feature of CHT region; withdrawal of all temporary camps including the ‘Operation Uttoron’; resolution of the land disputes; rehabilitation of the India-returnee Jumma refugees and internally Jumma displaced peoples in their respective lands having their lands returned back to them; cancellation land leases given to non-resident persons, settlement of two acres of land to each landless indigenous families, appointment of the permanent residents prioritizing the Jumma people in all jobs available in CHT; bringing in amendment of all the other laws applicable in CHT including the Police Act, Police Regulation and CHT Regulation 1900, in order to make them in consonance with the Accord; rehabilitation of the Bengali settlers outside CHT with due dignity and so on.

In recent days, not only keeping CHT Accord unimplemented, the conspiracy leading to evicting the Jumma peoples from their homesteads and lands has got accelerated in the three hill districts through illegal occupation of the Jumma-dwelling lands, lands of religious shrines, recorded and preoccupied lands of the Jumma people. In place of ensuring the Jumma peoples with their rights to lands as per the Accord, thousand acres of lands under collective ownership and the Mouza lands are being illegally occupied in the name of establishing BGB camps, tourism centers being established by security forces, declaration of reserved forests areas, giving the lands in leases to the outsider businessmen, influential bureaucrats and political personalities in the name of horticulture and rubber plantation. Even after signing the CHT Accord, it was only for the cause of illegal and forcible occupation of lands, the indigenous Jumma peoples have been evicted from 30 villages and they had to flee to other places. It is due to being evicted from their ancestral lands, life and livelihood of indigenous peoples are being hampered seriously. This leads to encourage local indigenous villagers to migrate to Rakhine state of Myanmar.

List of some families migrated to Myanmar:

Two more list of Myanmar-migrated indigenous people who went during the recent years have been received. Of them were 146 families from Noyapara Union and 121 families from Kurukpata Union of Alikadam upazila.

Apart from the above, list of indigenous villagers of Ward no. 5 of Kurukpata Union of Alikadam upazila who left for Myanmar (Daily Cox’s Bazaar, 20 March 2018):

Name of Family Head No. of Family members Name of Village
Linklang Mro, s/o Ratui Mro 4 Ralai Para
Saknaw Mro, s/o Nia Sau 6 Ralai Para
Mendawng Mro, s/o Menlok Mro 6 Ralai Para
Men Ya Mro, s/o Pa-lay Mro 6 Ralai Para
Aroi Mro, s/o Longnath Mro 4 Ralai Para
Rengthoi Mro, s/o Rinkui Mro 5 Mangrum Para
Thawng Uai Mro, s/o Reng Nong Mro 4 Mangrum Para
MukangMro, s/o Menrau 4 Mangrum Para
Risa Mro, s/o Dui Oai Mro 4 Mangrum Para
Chawng Mong Mro Karbari, s/o Tekcha Mro 5 Teichcha Para
Duidawk Mro, s/o Techcha 7 Teichcha Para
Oailock Mro, s/o Chingtai Mro 8 Teichcha Para
Diruai Mro, s/o Mapong Mro 11 Teichcha Para
Kaipriya Mro, s/o Mencrat Mro 12 Teichcha Para
Mon Chung Mro, s/o Kaipriya Mro 7 Teichcha Para
Longlong Mro, s/o KaPeyaw Mro 5 Butto Para
Chhe Tong Mro, s/o Mebbat Mro 5 Butto Para
Saklan Mro, s/o Balikong Mro 3 Butto Para
Menchawng Mro, s/o Eului Mro 4 Manni Para
Rutui Mro, s/o Menoiyawm Mro 5 Manyawm Para
Rengchawn Mro, s/o Unknown 4 Parau Para
KaimpaMro, s/o KomlaiMro 5 Parau Para
Kam Yen Mro, s/o RengHinMro 3 Parau Para
PangluiMro, s/o unknown 5 Mandawn Para


List of indigenous villagers of Noyapata Union of Alikadam upazila who left for Myanmar (Daily Cox’s Bazaar, 20 March 2018):

Name of Family Head No. of family members Name of Village
Juddha Moni Chakma, s/o Ananda Lal Chakma Basu Deb Chakma Para
Dorallya Chakma, s/o Kanta Moni Chakma Basu Deb Chakma Para
Anil Baral Chakma, s/o Anchal Chakma Basu Deb Chakma Para
Uthoai Ching Tanchangya, s/o unknown Basu Deb Chakma Para
JagadishTanchangya, s/o Chandraman Chakma JogendraTanchangya Para
Maung Kyaw Tanchangya, s/o Bhagya Moni Chakma JogendraTanchangya Para
Choipucha Tanchangya, s/o unknown JogendraTanchangya Para
Ucha Aung Tanchangya, s/o Chingpu Aung Tanchangya JogendraTanchangya Para