Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mysterious Structures at Remote Hills at Ukhiya, close to the Myanmar border

Mysterious Structures at Remote Hills at Ukhiya, close to the Myanmar border

[Original news report in Bengali (in the link given below) with English translation by Mong Pru]
The Daily Kaler Kantha
Dhaka, 5th April 2015-04-06
Tofail Ahmed, Cox’s Bazaar
(Special Investigative Report)

The suspicious building complex built on the government forest land close to the Kutupalong Rohingya Camp in Cox’s Bazar
Photo: The Kaler Kantha (Financial Express)

A mysterious building complex has been constructed ‘very quickly’ close to the Rohingya makeshift camp at Ukhiya in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The facility included 40 half-brick structures, mosques and hospital. Without the ‘knowledge’ of the general people, the complex was built on a remote area. No one even knows how the complex was built without any knowledge of the administration or the high officials of the forest department. But what is clear is that the construction work is being done under the armed guards. The incidence has stirred mystery and uproar in the local administration. It is now thought that the job is done by a militant outfit. Behind the face of the complex, they are building a militant training camp. And the project is sponsored by an Asia-based NGO, with alleged militant connection.

The local administration has reported the matter to the higher level in the government.

The complex is built by clearing the Machkaria forest, just six kilometers from Gundum point, close to the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Close to the complex there lie a registered and another unregistered refugee camps for the Rohingyas. The local residents have alleged that the mysterious infrastructure has been built with militant funds by illegally squatting on the government lands. The local residents have alleged that the complex is being secretly built with a budget of at least 50 to 60 million Taka under armed guards, which has also been ensured by the government forest department.

A source has confirmed that Jahangir Alam, the local Rajapalong Union Parishad chairman, the general secretary of Ukhiya Upazilla Awami League, who is a brother-in-law of the local Member of Parliament of the Awami League Abdur Rahman Badi, is closely related with the construction of the complex. Jahangir Alam in this regards said to the Kaler Kantha daily yesterday, “The two-third part of my union is hilly area. There is no other way than building houses in the hilly lands. The buildings in the Machkariya area are for the landless. We are just helping them out.” When asked about the source of funding for the buildings, he said that ‘they’ have the ‘society’ and the required money.
While inquired about the role of foreign NGOs and militant connection behind the complex, and his role in the construction, the leader of the local Awami League said, ‘I have social and political enemies. Many people can say many things about me.’
On investigation it was found that, this mysterious complex was built by illegally occupying at least 10 acres of the government forest land in the Machkariya forest of Ukhiya Sadar Forest bit, under the Cox’s Bazar South Forest Department during the past three weeks. The area has been haunted by the members of Rohingya militant outfit, Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), for a long time. A number of militant outfits from the Middle East and Asia, under the cloak of NGOs, have close links to the RSO. A villager from Kutupalong village who refused to be identified said that the Rohingyas unregistered in the refugee camps are taken to the Machkariya and Madhirchara forest area. It is learnt that they have been reportedly trained in the area. After finishing the fundamental training here, the Rohingya militants are taken to Kulachi and Duchari under the Naikkhyongchari Upazilla of Bandarban and to the RSO militants’ camps near the Myanmar border.

Using the names of the NGO workers, various foreign nationals have been reported to visit the Kutupalong unregistered camps for long. The villagers know about the foreign rations and food stored in these houses for the rohingyas. Others also said about the training given to the rohingyas in these grounds.

When asked about construction of mysterious buildings on the forest grounds, the divisional officer of the Cox’s Bazar South Forest, Abdul Awal Sarkar said to the Kaler Kantha last Saturday, ‘these buildings were built in a short span of time by occupying the land of the forest department illegally. Though the members of the forest guards went to the spot, they could not visit the area because of the presence of armed guards there.’ He said, ‘I have already heard about the worries and the sensitivity related to the issue and have reported this to my superior. I have also requested for temporary suspension of local forest bit official Mozammel Haq for the illegal occupation.’

In this regards, the chair of the Rohingya repatriation movement and chairman of the Ukhiya Upazilla Awami League Principal Hamidul Haq Chowdhury told the Kaler Kantha daily, ‘I have been informed just five six days ago about the sudden construction work in the forest. I have also heard about the activities of the foreign militant outfits in the area in the guise of international aid agencies who have been constructing these buildings. Since this is a very sensitive issue I have reported it to my senior in the party. But I don’t know who are engaged in this construction.’

The chairman in charge of Cox’s Bazar Awami League Advocate A K Ahmed Hussein said yesterday, ‘This area is a border area. We are really worried about the mysterious infrastructure construction without the knowledge of our government since it is close to Rohingya camps. I informed this immediately after I came to know about this to the Deputy Commissioner. The DC also said he already heard about the matter and they are considering the matter.”

The Deputy Commissioner of Cox’s Bazar district, Md Ali Husain last night said to the Kaler Kantha, ‘the construction of so many brick and mortar buildings by illegally occupying the land of the forest department close to the Rohingya camp is highly alarming. We are going to make an inquiry into the matter. And we want to look at it with serious concern. The matter has been reported to me only today (Saturday). But I just wonder whether the confiscation of the land and construction of the building were done overnight?’

The officer in charge (Investigation) of Ukhiya police station, Mr Habibur Rahman, said, ‘I have heard about the construction of buildings in the hills close to Kutupalong Rohingya camp. This is done under the supervision of the local UP chairman (also the general secretary of Ukhiya Upazilla Awami League) Jahaghir Alam. I with the officer in charge will visit the area tomorrow and the day after.’

Though the incidence has shaken all the government and nongovernmental levels, the Ukhiya Upazilla Nirbahi Officer (UNO), Mr Hillol Biswas has no knowledge about it. While contacted on phone, the UNO said that he knew nothing about the matter and asked me to visit the area in person.

The members of the intelligence branches of Cox’s Bazar have said that they have informed about the sensitive issue to the high level in the government.

According to the office of the RRRC or Rohingya Refugees Repatriation Commissioner in Cox’s Bazar, four international organizations have been working in the Rohingya camps – UNHCR, WFP, UNFPA, IOM, and seven of the local NGOs. The NGOs include – the Bangladesh Red Crescent, TI, RTMI, VARK, Handicap International, RIV, and Save the Children. Though three of the international NGOs – MSF, Muslim Aid and ACF – have been declared illegal to work in the Rohingya camps in 2012, they have been working disregarding the government ban in the camps. Recently ACF and MSF have taken permission for working in the camps for two more years.

The UNO of Teknaf Shah Mujahid Uddin said that the Teknaf Sadar office of the Muslim Aid has been sealed off. But they have limited operations at Leda unregistered Rohingya camp. The ban declared by the government on the agency is still effective, he said.

There are allegations of bringing in Rohingyas en masse from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and conducting militant activities in the camps against Middle East based NGOs including the Muslim Aid. The intelligence branches have also reported about the engagement of Pakistani officials in the Muslim Aid, for creating a situation of indiscipline. Besides that some NGO officials from Saudi Arabia and Turkey have been reported to be engaged in matters related to Rohingya camps.

Last night the former leader of the RSO, Hafez Salaul Islam said to the Kaler Kantha, ‘the allegations against are totally baseless. We are not involved in militancy.’

Photo & source: http://www.kalerkantho.com/print-edition/first-page/2015/04/05/206855

____CHT Human Rights Watch

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