- Indigenous Mro are being forcefully evicted from their lands to make way for a 5-star hotel resort.
- Despite heavy pressure from the company, government and military, the Indigenous Mro are fighting for their rights.
- International solidarity has been summoned in an open letter to the Government of Bangladesh.
Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact (AIPP), Thailand and International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Denmark with the endorsement of 82 organizations and 106 individuals from all over the world, including UN Experts, human rights activists, academician and others, appealed to the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina MP and the Minister Bir Bahadur Ushwe Sing MP, Ministry of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bangladesh on 1st December 2020, to support the Indigenous Mro Peoples in their struggle for their rights. The letter expressed deep concern and solidarity with the Indigenous Mro communities, who right now are facing eviction from their ancestral lands as well as other human rights violations because of the construction of a five-star hotel in their territory. This letter has been sent by email, fax and post by the AIPP and IWGIA.
The organisations and individuals urged the Government to:
- Immediately abandon the construction of the luxury hotel on the Chimbuk-Thanchi route, and ensure that any further construction or establishment on the Mro and other Indigenous land respects the free prior and informed consent of the peoples and communities.
- Protect and develop the lives and livelihood of the Indigenous peoples in line with Bangladesh’s commitment in its Constitution and international human rights law.
- Immediately stop the harassment and intimidation of the activists of the Mro indigenous people’s movement for peacefully protesting against the project.
- Conduct an investigation by an independent Commission of Inquiry (into the sham protest as well as the illegal detainment of the peaceful movement).
- Establish a constructive dialogue with the Indigenous Mro communities and their representative organisations regarding their concerns.
- Declare a timeframe or roadmap for the speedy, proper, and full implementation of the CHT Accord of 1997.
The open letter said the officials of the Army Welfare Trust and a giant business entity (the Sikder Group-owned R&R Holdings Ltd.) have jointly encroached on the Mro indigenous swidden farm-land, village forest, cremation grounds, other sacred sites, and different fruit orchards to construct the hotel and to use the adjacent lands for trekking, swimming, cable car rides and 12 luxury villas. The project was made public only though an announcement of Bangladesh army and Sikder group on 12 September 2020. The construction of the luxury hotel and related tourism facilities will effectively destroy the social, economic, traditional, and cultural fabric of the Mro Indigenous people and its community. Mro villagers have no other way to survive without this land, moreover, this displacement and eviction will bring a destruction in the history of the Mro Indigenous Peoples civilization, the letter added.
This project is not only violating the Bangladesh Constitutions, CHT Accord 1997, and CHT related laws and regulations, but also a violation of the Bangladesh Government’s commitment and obligations at international forums to protect and promote human rights, including to the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, the letter added.
The organisations raised concern about the safety and physical security of the Mro community members who organized protests against the project, who claim that they have been subjected to threats and intimidation. The army has publicly threatened community members of killing indiscriminately with brushfire if they plan or stage any protest or demonstration in the future.
“The construction of a five-star hotel in the Mro Indigenous territory in Bangladesh is illegal,” said Gam A. Shimray, Secretary General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact. “It is in violation of the UN Guiding Principle on Business and Human Rights and other international human rights standard pertaining to Indigenous Peoples, particularly the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent of the Mro people. The Government must immediately ensure that the Army and the company are held accountable and hold dialogue with the affected communities and the CHT Regional Council respecting the CHT peace accord and international human rights standards.”
IWGIA’s Executive Director Kathrin Wessendorf said: The Indigenous Mro risk losing everything they have – their livelihood, their culture, their homes. And for what? A 5-star hotel resort. This is absurd. The government of Bangladesh must ensure that the rights of Indigenous Peoples are respected, and that a fair process is initiated before these private sector projects are approved!
Please find the attached open letters.
Gam A. Shimray
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
112 Moo.1 T Sanpranate, Amphur Sansai
Chiang Mai 50210, Thailand
Tel. +66 (0) 53343539
Fax: +66 (0) 53343540