The government has tightened restrictions on foreign nationals including journalists travelling to the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) amid allegations that it is flouting national and international laws.
Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC), a non-government organisation, at a press conference on Sunday alleged in the current year, the government expelled three foreign nationals including a Swedish journalist.
Sultana Kamal, Co-Chairman of CHTC, said Jumma-Net Co-President Thomas Christian Eskildsen, also an advisor to the CHTC, was stopped from entering Bangladesh as he reached Shahjalal International Airport on July 23 and was deported.
Eskildsen, who visited hill districts about 20 times in the last 25 years, was trying to enter Bangladesh after he was detained from Bandarban on January 3, 2012. He was deported after interrogation by intelligence agencies, according to a letter Eskildsen sent to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requesting an explanation for the incidents.
“These incidents are testimonies to the administration’s unexpected intervention on the free movement at Chittagong Hill Tracts,” said Kamal, who was an advisor to a caretaker government.
“This step of the government is frustrating,” she added.
According to her, letters were sent to managers of hotels, cottages and resorts in the Chitaggong Hill Tracts, ordering them not to accept any booking for foreign nationals unless there was an order from the district administration.
The CHTC press conference came three days after Bangladesh Adivasi Forum alleged the government slapped an official embargo on the celebrations of this year’s International Day of the World’s Indigenous People which is on Aug 9.
According to the Forum, a letter titled “Regarding observance of the World’s Indigenous day” was sent to the District Commissioners of the three Chittagong Hill Tracts districts on Mar 11 by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development ordering them to not observe the day.
The CHTC press conference called upon the government to withdraw such orders and fully implement the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord signed in 1997 between the then Awami League government and Shanti Bahini guerrillas.
Sultana Kamal also alleged the government was saying there was no ‘advasi’ people in Bangladesh though the ruling Awami League in its election manifesto clearly used the word ‘adviasi’.
“The current government is flouting international laws every hour,” said another member of the Commission, Sara Hossain.
Another CHTC member Iftekharuzzaman said the recent disliking for the word ‘adivasi’ surfaced as UN peace-keeping mission was unwilling to employ army officials involved in repressing ‘adviasi’ people in their countries.
“This type of mindset is not acceptable after independence,” he added.