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Extortion by armed militants fuelling insurgency in CHT

Published : Sunday, 3 December, 2023 at 12:00 AM  Count : 230

The government began construction of the 3,590.5km road, along the three hilly districts of Rangamati,  Khagrachhari and Bandarban, after signing an agreement (known as CHT Accord) with the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) on December 2 in 1997.

Before signing the CHT Accord the three hill districts had only 1,321.5km of road.

Bangladesh Army is working to complete the first phase of 317km-road construction along the remote borders with Myanmar and India within 2024.

Officials say 178km of road construction has already been completed and another 139km of the construction works is expected to finish by middle of June next year.

The main project of the 1,036km Border Road stretches across the three hilly districts of Rangamati, Khagrachhari, and Bandarban. It will help authorities in the fight against militant groups and smugglers and boost trade and tourism.

Meanwhile, a good number of armed members of six regional separatist outfits are active in Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban districts of Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT).

The armed members get fixed salary from their respective outfits. The salary also depends on their ranks, according to sources.  

Six regional groups, United People's Democratic Front (UPDF Prasit), UPDF (Democrats), Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samity (JSS-Santu), Jana Sanghati Samity (Reformists), Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) and Mog National Party (MNF) are active in the region, said sources in the intelligence agencies.

Intelligence sources said at least 3,500 armed members of the six regional extremist groups are involved in illegal toll collection. Of them, 1,200 belong to UPDF while 1,000 belong to JSS-Santu,  400 of JSS (Reformists), 400 belong to Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF), 280 belong to UPDF (Democrats) and 220 of Mog National Party (MNF).

Others members of the six groups are involved in collecting arms and ammunition, imparting military training to fresh recruits of the groups

There are 3,000 to 4,000 armed and unarmed members belonging to the newly-formed extremist group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) in Mizoram and Chattogram, according to their official webpage Mahabahu.com.

At least 9,000 to 11,000 armed members belong to (UPDF Prasit), UPDF (Democrats) and another 10,000 to 11,000 members belong to  JSS-Santu and JSS (Reformists) and around 1,000 members belong to  MNF, according to local and intelligence sources.

The three districts comprise one tenth of the country's land mass. The population of these districts is around 16 lakh. Over 51 per cent of them are Bengalis and the rest tribal people.    

The extremist groups and their wings have collected huge quantities of sophisticated arms and ammunition smuggled from abroad with the money collected from public and private sector workers, businessmen and ordinary people illegally.

Sources claimed that the extortion money is the lifeline for the anti-Bangladesh campaign at home and abroad. Law enforcers have managed to nab a number of extortionists round the year. But the illegal toll collection continues unabated.

Saikat Sahin, Superintendent of Police in Bandarban,, "We take immediate action if we get any complaint about extortion. We have arrested many toll collectors."

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