Two groups of tribal people have started a gunfight at a deserted village in the hills of Bandarban’s Ruma Upazila.
The villagers had started leaving Mualpi Para sensing trouble five days ago. The picturesque village has 50 Marma families and 80 of the Bawm ethnic minority.
Monir Hossain, sub-inspector at Ruma Police Station, said the shootout erupted early on Tuesday morning between the United People’s Democratic Front or UPDF (Ganatantrik) and the Kuki-Chin National Army, known as the Bawm Party.
“Sounds of shots were heard until 2:30pm. It seems the fight has stopped for now,” he said, adding that no casualties were reported yet.
On Thursday, 49 Marma families from the village took shelter at the Marma Welfare Association building in Ruma. They said the KNF had abducted and tortured two villagers. The Bawm Party released the duo but took them away again on Apr 18.
Aung San Prue Marma, a member of the local union council, said the Marma families had left before the fighting started. “Now the Bawm families have left the village. I don’t know where they have gone.”
Dozens of Khyang families left their village to seek refuge at Bandarban’s Rowangchhari Upazila in the first week of April after an alleged shootout between ethnic groups left at least eight people dead.
The army and the Rapid Action Battalion have been conducting a joint operation in the Chattogram Hill Tracts for months after reports of activities of separatist and Islamist groups emerged.
Since October last year, many tribal families have left their villages following the joint forces' operation against the separatist group KNF and the new militant outfit Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya.
At the beginning of March, gunfights led to the closure of at least six government primary schools in Bandarban’s Ruma as panicked residents stopped sending their children to the institutions.
Police said around 300 to 400 people went to India and took shelter in their relatives’ homes there.
Locals said the Jhum farmers, who provide food to the hill people throughout the year, suffer the most due to the situation.
The organisations seeking control of the hilly areas deny any wrongdoing, blaming each other for deadly gunfights.