Sunday, February 21, 2010

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Navanethem (Navy) Pillay
The UN High Commisoner for Human Rights

Dated: 02/21/2010

Massive communal attack on Inidengous Jumma villages by military forces and Bengali Muslim settlers in Baghaihat area in Rangamati
-United Nations urged to intervene-

On 19-20 February 2010 massive communal attack on Jumma villages was made by military forces and Bengali Muslim settlers at Baghaihat area of Sajek union under Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati hill district. It is reported that at 8 innocent Jumma villagers including a woman were killed and 25 Jumma villagers wounded in this attack. It is learnt that around 200 houses of Jumma villagers including 3 Buddhist temples and a church were completely burnt into ashes.

We urged to intervention of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay with the government of Bangladesh for taking appropriate actions against the burning down of the indigenous Jumma villages and indiscriminate killing of indigenous Jumma peoples since yesterday night i.e. 19th February 2010 by the Bangladesh Army and illegal Bengali Muslim settlers. According to the information received by us this morning, the Bangladesh Army has resumed the burning down of the tribal houses at 6 am GMT (20 February 2010) and the villages are still being burnt at the time of issuing this press release.

At least three innocent Jumma including Lakkhi Bijoy Chakma and Litan Chakma were shot dead this morning (20 February 2010), dozens were injured in the firing by the Bangladesh Army while one Buddhist monk, Purnabash Bhikkhu, has been missing after the Buddhist temple was burnt down. At least four indigenous/tribal villages - Gangaram Doar, Retkaba, Purba Para and Guchachagram - under Sajek Sub-Division of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh have been burnt into ashes. In addition, at least 7 shops in Ladumani bazaar, one UNDP sponsored village centre providing assistance to the indigenous villagers, one church and 3 Buddhist temples were burnt down yesterday night (19 February 2010).

The Bangladesh Army personnel have reportedly erected barricades and have further been preventing the public leaders, civil officials and the journalists from visiting the affected areas. “This particular attack on the indigenous Jumma peoples shows that the government of Bangladesh has failed to change its policy of indiscriminate killings of indigenous Jumma people in order to occupy their lands and implant more illegal plain settlers instead of implementing the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord of 1997.”

Since the beginning of January 2010, illegal plain Bengali Muslim settlers with the support of Bangladesh army personnel posted at Baghaihat zone under Rangamati district resumed expansion of their illegal settlement into the villages of the Chakma people. A number of houses have already been erected by the illegal plain settlers by forcibly occupying indigenius Jumma villagers’ lands.

The Jumma villagers under the banner of Sajek Bhumi Rakkha Committee (Sajek Land Rights Protection Committee) submitted a memorandum to the Baghaichhari Upazila Nirbahi Officer on 10 January 2010 with an ultimatum of 16 January 2010 to return them their lands. As the deadline expired without any fruitful result on 16 January 2010, Jumma villagers started their agitation and started to boycott Baghaihat market from 18 January 2010.

The Bangladesh Army personnel and the security forces started burning down the indigenous Jumma villages since yesterday night to increase settlement of illegal plain settlers.

In view of the circumstances and considerations noted above, we urge the Government of Bangladesh to immediately take the following remedial actions:

1. To prevent any further destruction of forensic and other evidence of killing or arson by any party, including the administration and security forces;

2. To also take immediate governmental custody of all dead bodies from the army and settlers, transferring them to neutral civilian government administration members, with the eventual objective of handing these over to the respective families;

3. To undertake an urgent, independent, high level investigation into the killings and allegations of human rights violations in the Baghaihat area of Sajek;

4. To take immediate steps to provide security of life and property, as well as food, water and shelter, for all women, men and children who have been left homeless, insecure and destitute from the arson attacks;

We also urge the Government of Bangladesh to take the following immediate actions:

1. To immediately declare a roadmap for full and comprehensive implementation of the 1997 CHT Accord, in line with the government's election pledge.

2. To withdraw army camps from the three hill districts in accordance with the CHT Accord, as well as terminate Operation Uttaran;

3. To stop Military atrocities and human rights abuses on indigenous people in CHTs;

4. To immediately stop illegal land grabbing and return the illegally occupied lands to their rightful owners;

5. Appointment of indigenous people in all posts under the CHT local government system.

6. Constitutional assurance for the future safeguard of indigenous people and non-repetition.

7. Establishment of international Human Rights Camp in CHTs.

Thanking you

Buddha Ratana Bhikkhu)
The Indigenous Jumma People`s Network, USA