No customers at Thanchi Bazar a day after bank robberies

According to a shop owner, people have not visited the shops since the marketplace opened on Thursday

Uttam Sen Gupta
Published : 4 April 2024, 10:06 AM
Updated : 4 April 2024, 10:06 AM

The armed bank robberies in Bandarban's Thanchi have spurred fear among the locals and streets seemed empty one day after the attack.

The shops opened on Thursday morning in Thanchi Sadar Upazila, but foot traffic was minimal in the marketplace area.

According to Jashim Uddin, the general secretary of the Thanchi Traders Association, shops were closed on Wednesday as people were scared to step outside of their homes following the attacks.

"Apart from the pharmacies, all other stores were closed," he told the media.

"The shops have finally opened today, but the streets are still empty," he added.

A group of armed robbers looted the Thanchi branches of the Bangladesh Krishi Bank and Sonali Bank around 12:30pm on Wednesday. They took Tk 208,000 from Krishi Bank and Tk 1,500,000 from Sonali Bank.

The robbers also opened fire near the banks to spread panic among the locals during the heist.

Before that, on Tuesday, over 100 men attacked the Sonali Bank branch in Ruma Upazila's Sadar area. As many as 20 people, including bank officials and security personnel, were assaulted, and the branch's manager, Nezam Uddin, was kidnapped.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan believes members of the separatist hill tribal group Kuki-Chin National Front or KNF, better known as the Bawm Party, were involved in the attacks.

A shop owner told bdnews24.com: "Hundreds of people entered the market in three jeeps around 12pm. One of the jeeps was stationed right in front of the bank while the people from the other two jeeps got down from the vehicles to rob it."

"They kept looking for the bank manager. But when they couldn't find him, they started taking money out of the cash box. All of them were wearing khaki clothes. We think they are members of the KNF," he added.

According to the shop owner, the armed robbers, including female gang members, opened fire to scare the locals before leaving the scene.

The bank robberies have caused panic across the three hilly districts ahead of the Bengali New Year and Eid.

Several banks have also sent official letters to their branches in Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban following the attacks to ensure safety.

A shop owner from Thanchi Bazar told bdnews24.com: "People are living in fear. On a normal day, the crowds would have doubled. Not many people are visiting the shops even though we opened the marketplace today."

The shops in the Thanchi Bazar area are especially busy on Sunday and Wednesday as many as 25 to 30 boats bring in goods. However, barely 10 boats were visible in the area on Thursday.

The shop owners are worried whether people will show up at the weekly market next week ahead of Sangrai, the New Year festival celebrated by ethnic minority groups.

According to locals, the armed robbers headed towards Shahjahan para through Chanda para after the heist.

"The marketplace is around 2-3 kilometres away from that area. We fear the armed men may still be there," a local told bdnews24.com.