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Army constructs camp with forced labour in Khagrachari

Friday, May 18, 2007
Hill Watch Human Rights Forum
NEWS No. 02/2007, April 10, 2007

Members of the Bangladesh military have been accused of constructing their camp in Dadkuppya under Khagrachari district using forced labour.

In a letter to the editor of the Swadhikar bulletin, a mouthpiece of the United People’s Democratic Front, one of the victims complained that immediately after the relocation of an army camp from Itchari Mouza No. 260 to Dadkuppya Mouza No. 259 on 18 February 2007, fear and anxiety loomed over the villagers.

The writer (name withheld for security reasons) alleged that the camp commander Lt. Al Amin forced the villagers to construct the new camp, which took about one month to be completed. The villagers were not paid for the work they had done.

He further said while the commander put restrictions on cutting trees and bamboos from the personal gardens of the villagers for home use, he has depleted their groves felling trees and bamboos to construct the camp. For example, he cut teak trees from the teak grove of Mr. Pritri Raj Chakma, took away teak logs belonging to Mr. Banomali Dewan and cut bamboos from the gardens of Mr. Moni Shankar Dewan, member of Kamalchari Union Parishad and Mr. Priti Dewan.

Not only were the villagers forced to work, even the rank and file soldiers under his command had to toil like anything. After sentry duties at night, the soldiers had to carry bricks all day for the camp construction. A corporal raised the matter with the commander, but he was rebuffed.

On the other hand, the villagers had to work for hours without break. Those who wanted to take some rest were caned. However he did not say who were tortured.

According to the letter writer, the commander also demolished 10 new houses of the Jumma people in Dadkuppya village. This happened at around 9 – 10 am on 8 March 2007, Thursday. The names of the villagers whose houses were destroyed are Sugata Chakma, Moloy Bikash Chakma, Ananta Lal Chakma, Morotto Chakma, Surot Chakma, Indu Bhushon Chakma, Jogot Joti Chakma, Denga Chakma, Topon Joti Chakma and Gyana Joti Chakma.

Earlier, Al Amin went round the area and ordered the villagers not to build new houses.

The writer submitted pictures of the demolished houses and the new army camp to back up his report.

“Al Amin has become the most dreaded name in Dadkuppya. It evokes terror in the minds of the villagers. They don’t know what days are lying ahead for them,” said the letter writer whose name begins with an “S”.

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