EU urges Dhaka to re-settle Buddhists in Chittagong hills

IANS, June 10, 2009

Dhaka, Bangladesh -- The European Union (EU) has urged Bangladesh to remove temporary military bases and help re-settle the original Buddhist tribal residents in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, media reports here said Wednesday.

Visiting EU officials Tuesday suggested that Bangladesh implement a treaty it signed in 1997 with regard to the district in the southeastern part of the country, which is the home to 12 minority ethnic groups.

The treaty with tribal leaders was signed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her first tenure (1996-2001).

This ended two decades of armed conflict by the ethnic groups for self-rule in the hilly terrain that accounts for one-tenth of the country’s area. But the successive governments’ lack of political commitment has apparently hamstrung the implementation process of the treaty.

“The European Union has encouraged the government to implement the CHT Peace Accord, and has noted, in particular, the importance of activating the Land Commission, holding elections to the hill district councils and removing the temporary military bases from the region,” Helena Bambasova, deputy minister for foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, told media.

The EU noted that many hilly residents, displaced due to the prolonged conflict, are yet to return to their homesteads 11 years after the signing of the treaty, one of the prime clauses of which was removal of the temporary military camps set up during the clash.

It also noted with concern custody deaths of “numerous” troopers of the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) who were detained after they staged a mutiny in February, the New Age newspaper said.