On May 8, terrorists killed 3 more villagers from Rowangchari upazila under Bandarban district. Their bodies were found dumped after they were executed. With this, 10 innocent Bawm people, a largely Christian tribe that is part of the Kuki Chin ethnic group, have been killed by terrorists in Rwangchari in two rounds since April, reports Hillvoice.net, a portal focused on the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
According to local sources HillVoice.net spoke to, on May 8, 2023 around noon, three people from the Bawm community were killed on the spot and another one was injured when 'terrorists' opened fire in the reserve area of Paikhyong Para of No.6 Ward of Rowangchari Sadar Union of Rowangchari Upazila. The deceased are - Nemthang Bawm (43), son of Dokhar Bawm; Lal Lian Bawm (32), son of Lian Thom Bawm and Simlian Thang Bawm (30) and the injured person has been identified as Mansar Bawm. All the deceased are residents of Ronin Para area of Rowangchari and among the deceased, Nemthang Bawm was the president of Awami League of No. 5 Ward of Rowangchari Sadar Union and Lal Lian Bawm is said to be a motorcycle driver. At the time of the incident, the victims were said to be going towards Rowangchari upazila headquarters.
Later police recovered the bodies of 3 people who were shot dead from the spot and took them to the Bandarban Sadar Hospital and the next day (May 9) the police handed over the bodies to the Bawm Social Council after the post-mortem at the hospital. The victims' family members did not go to receive the body due to fear. Bawm Social Council leader Laljar Bawm accepted the body from the police.
Several local residents who did not wish to reveal their names to HillVoice.net alleged that UPDF (Democratic) 'terrorists' had committed the murders. They said that an armed group of UPDF (Democratic) took position in Paikhyong Para area that same day. At one point, they started firing indiscriminately at the Bawm villagers who were coming from Ronin Para towards Rowangchari Bazar.
In the April 7 incident, according to HillVoice, seven innocent Bawm villagers were shot dead by UPDF (Democratic) and JSS (Reformist) terrorists in Khamtang Para village of Rowangchari Sadar Union, and on the same day, one member of the Kuki Chin National Fron or KCNF, aka Bawm Party locally, member was killed in a shootout between JSS (Reformist) and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists and KCNF terrorists.
The KCNF claims to fight for the rights of the Kuki Chin, and has an armed wing, the KCNA. It has been demanding a separate state for the Kuki CHin of Bangladesh carved out of the CHT, but with merely full autonomy, not sovereignty.
HillVoice reports that around 6:30 a.m. on April 6, 2023, a group of 20-25 armed terrorists belonging to Reformist and UPDF (Democratic) entered Khamtang Para village and fired blank bullets, causing panic among the residents. The terrorists detained 22 people from the village one by one.
Later, 15 of the 22 detained were released. However, the other 7 people were detained at Khamtang Para Primary School by the JSS (Reformist) and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists. In the early hours of the next day, a group of Bawm Party (KCNF) terrorists carried out two rounds of armed attacks on the JSS (Reformist) and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists, apparently to rescue the villagers and no doubt gain some credibility within the community. A member of the Bawm party was killed when the two sides exchanged fire.
The JSS (Reformist) and UPDF (Democratic) terrorists are said to have been angered by the Bawm Party terrorists to rescue the villagers and shot dead the 7 innocent Bawm villagers who they had kept detained, according to HillVoice.net.
Meanwhile, such repetitive attacks and killings on and of innocent villagers with no effective action by the administration against the perpetrators are said to have created deep fear and anxiety among the people of the area. There is a feeling that the perpetrators must have the backing of the administration. Many male members of various Bawm villages including Painkhiongpara, Kaplongpara, Roninpara, Jurvarangpara have left their homes in fear and taken shelter in the forest.
After the latest incident, more than 250 families of Bawm and Marma communities of Khamtang Para, Paikhyong Para and Kaplong Para were compelled to leave their homesteads and take shelter in Ruma Sadar's Bawm Social Council Hall and Rowangchari Government High School in order to save their lives. They are internally displaced for the moment, but the number of refugees seeking shelter in India may soon witness another bump, probably bigger than before. In November it was reported that more than 200 refugees from the Kuki Chin community had crossed the border into Mizoram state. The Mizoram government has sanctioned a rehabilitation package for asylum seekers lodged at five border villages, citing the ethnic ties between the Kuki Chin people in their state and the Bawms.
That came after the army launched an operation in the area to hunt down the KCNF, who had apparently struck a deal with a newly launched militant outfit, Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya, to train them in exchange for money and other benefits, including food for all 150 KCNF members. This was all revealed at a RAB press conference in October 2022 by Commander Khandker Al Moin. The evidence presented in favour of this unlikely partnership, the likes of which is almost unheard of in the annals of separatist or Jihadist struggles, was flimsy to say the least.
But the operation commenced anyway, and now, there is a feeling in the hills that having failed to achieve any notable success till now, the security forces have allowed organisations viewed with suspicion among the Jummah in the form of the UPDF (Democratic) and JSS (Reformist) to run riot,with devastating consequences. The fact that the administration remains so moribund, and there is no move to investigate, to try and catch or even to just identify the perpetrators of such open air barbarism, in one of the most heavily militarised territories in the world, where even the leaves don't flutter outside the Army's knowledge, no doubt plays into these feelings.
It should be noted that there has been a long-standing allegation that it was the army and government circles who endorsed the creation of the armed terrorist organisations one after the other in the CHT, including the UPDF (Democratic), JSS (reformist), Mog Party, Bawm Party etc. to thwart the implementation of the CHT Accord, which was signed with the PCJSS. One year after the signing of the Accord, the UPDF was born, with an official stance that was 'sceptical' of the CHT Accord.
What this meant in practice was that they would not do anything to impede the implementation of the accord, but they remained doubtful of the government's intentions, and predicted it wouldn't be implemented. After a long time shunning armed rebellion, they were placing themselves as a credible alternative to the PCJSS as a vehicle for the aspirations of the people of the CHT, who were growing more and more disillusioned by the non-implementation of the accord, and the seeming impotence of the PCJSS to do anything to speed it up.
That all ended following the split in UPDF in 2018, after which UPDF (Democratic) members engaged in a series of assassinations and even enforced disappearances of UPDF leaders, eventually provoking them into taking up arms to survive. Unfortunately it marked the end of their credibility as a political party. Hill Voice now describes them too as terrorists. All these groupings over time played nicely into the intensification of military rule in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and along with growing criminalisation, repression of rights activists, and generally anti-CHT Accord or anti-Jumma interest activities, combined to subvert the interests of the people of the region.
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