PM Hasina says only 4 army brigades will be retained in Chittagong Hill Tracts

All military formations except four army brigades will be withdrawn from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said.

Published : 8 May 2016, 11:59 AM
Updated : 9 May 2016, 04:14 AM

Speaking after laying the foundation for ‘Parbatya Chattagram Complex’ in Dhaka on Sunday, she said: “We have removed most of the army camps from the hills."

"Only four brigades will remain in four places. We will withdraw the rest. We are setting up a cantonment in Ramu with that in mind,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina's first government (1996-2001) signed the CHT accord with the PCJSS-Shanti Bahini rebel leadership in 1997 to pave the way for a settlement in the turbulent hill region bordering India and Myanmar, whose demography is different from the rest of Bangladesh.

It brought two decades of conflict between government forces and the tribal insurgents to an end but tribal militant factions continue to fight a bloody turf war in the area.

The Prime Minister said fresh laws were needed to implement land reforms under the CHT Peace Accord.

She promised to fully implement all guidelines that forms part of the CHT accord.

“The land reform commission has been formed time and again, but it has not worked properly. Some outstanding issues are involved.”

The 24th infantry division based in Chittagong covers the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It has four brigades based in the hill region.

  • 24th Artillery Brigade (Guimara Cantonment)
  • 69th Infantry Brigade (Bandarban Cantonment)
  • 203rd Infantry Brigade (Khagraccharhi Cantonment)
  • 305th Infantry Brigade (Rangamati Cantonment)

The PCJSS, which signed the 1997 accord, has been dissatisfied with its implementation. They say most army camps have not been removed from the CHT, even though 19 years have passed since the accord was signed.

PCJSS President Jyotirindor Bodhipriya Larma, better known as Santu Larma, who was at the ceremony, said delay in implementing the deal was creating 'restlessness and hopelessness' in the region and might destabilise it.

He, however, said he had ‘complete faith’ that the problems would be resolved under Prime Minister Hasina’s ‘strong’ leadership.

“The two sides have to sit for talks,” said the prime minister, in her key-note speech.

“They want some parts of the law we formed in 2001 to be changed. We will do whatever we can while preserving the Constitution and our sovereignty.”

The PCJSS says that most of the subjects to be dealt with the autonomous body in CHT have not been transferred to it by the government.

Some key amendments to existing laws, which should follow from the 1997 accord, have not been brought about, PCJSS alleges.

The key issue in CHT is the dispute over land between indigenous tribals and Bengali settlers, to resolve which a commission was set up , but PCJSS says the law that created that commission needs to be changed.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher