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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Government places strict restrictions on foreigners’ visit to the CHT

Government places strict restrictions on foreigners’ visit to the CHT
This report has been translated from Bengali newspaper "the daily kaler kantho"]
14 December 2011

The government has recently imposed very strict restrictions on foreigners’ travels to the CHT. According to the new rules, apart from having a passport and visa and permission from the Home and Foreign Ministry, foreigners will have to take prior permission from the respective Deputy Commissioners. Also, a prohibition has been placed on foreigners and foreign nationals on holding discussions with any indigenous groups or religious groups without the presence of a responsible officer.

The Jana Sanghati Samity (JSS) and other NGOs have complained that the movement of donor organizations and representatives of international organizations has been negatively affected as a result of this new decision. But government sources have said that this decision was taken after proof had been found of unethical and anti-state activities by some foreigners who had come to the CHT in the name of human rights and religion.
On 26 November the CHT Commission members were forced to end a meeting at Ujanipara Tripura Kalyan Sangsad Auditorium in the face of opposition from the local magistrateswhere they were supposed to hold a meeting with adibashi groups without informing the police and district administration. The responsible local magistrate then produced a three-page circular and showed it to CHT Commission member Dr. Shapan Adnan. The circular said that without the presence of a government officer no small ethnic minority groups would be allowed to hold meetings.
In protest of this directive, the CHT Commission members cancelled the planned two-day visit and left Bandarban that evening. Earlier, six more foreigners were sent back from the Reicha check post on their way to the Bandarban Parjatan Motel because they had not taken prior permission from the Deputy Commissioners. When contacted about this, a member of the Central Committee of JSS and a councilor of the CHT Regional Council K.S. Mong said, “These restrictions prove that the government is moving away from the implementation of the Peace Accord.”
Recently, a permit signed by NDC Rashedul Islam stated that before taking any trip to Bandarban all details of the activities to be undertaken and the places to be visited during the trip should be clearly stated in the respective thanas and police help taken during the visits. One should refrain from taking part in any political or religious activities apart from the purpose of the visit stated to the police. Apart from the pre-planned areas of visit, no other areas can be visited for the purpose of discussing or spreading religion or for giving any religious speeches.
The permit also stated that without informing the deputy commissioner no financial endowments can be given to any students or their guardians or any other individuals, and no communities can be induced to convert their religion. Also apart from the specific locations of travel, conditions have been given to not travel to areas where small ethnic minority populations live. The Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban Mizanur Rahman said, “These conditions have been given according to directives given by the Home Ministry for the sake of national security.” He informed that a number of child traffickers were held when they attempted to traffic six children from Thanchi, Ruma and Alikodom when they were taken away after being promised to be admitted to educational institutions.
There are also allegations of foreign nationals handing over money to small ethnic minorities in connection with converting their religion. For these reasons the government has been forced to take action against foreigners’ travel to the CHT. A letter sent by the Deputy Commissioner to hotels, cottages and resort managers in Bandarban directed that no bookings should be accepted in the name of foreigners without the prior permission of the Deputy Commissioner. In the letter it mentioned that if any untoward incidents took place during the stay of a foreigner without prior permission, the responsibility of the incident would fall on the organization. The hotel owners were too fearful to make a comment about this to the media. A hotel owner, who did not wish to reveal her/his name, said that visits by foreign tourists and NGO donors have gone down with the imposition of these new conditions. She/he said that the spread of tourism would go down as a result of this.
[Translated from Bengali newspaper "the daily kaler kantho"]

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