Merkel and Niebel should show support for indigenous people in Bangladesh and try to secure peace!

State visit from Bangladesh (23rd to 25th of October, 2011)

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Development Minister Dirk Niebel should how support for the people of Bangladesh during their meeting with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, and try to secure peace in the South Asian country. "Please help to improve the situation of around 700,000 indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and urge Sheikh Hasina to finally meet all the agreements of the peace treaty met with the indigenous resistance movement of 1997," says a letter from the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) to Merkel and Niebel.

Hasina will visit Germany from 23rd to 25th of October. Since she took office in January 2009, the situation in the mountainous region in southeastern Bangladesh has not improved, despite contrary campaign promises. Unfulfilled provisions of the peace treaty that ended 25 years of bloody conflict are - for example - the clarification of land rights, the withdrawal of military forces and the permission of particular administrative structures. While she was head of government, Sheikh Hasina herself had negotiated this with the political representatives of the indigenous people who collectively call themselves Jumma.

"The anarchic situation in the CHT is intolerable," says the STP's note. "If arson attacks, forced displacement and rape are not prosecuted, this will increase the risk of an escalation between the indigenous Jumma and the Bengalis who settled there later." After two devastating arson attacks this year - on February 17 in the Rangamati district and on April 17 in the district Khagrachari - there were again no official investigations or inquiries about speculations that military personnel could have been involved in the incident or at least might have tolerated it. Three settlers were killed during the armed conflict, dozens injured and more than 640 Jumma people lost their homes and crops.

In the Chittagong-Highlands there are twelve different indigenous communities who collectively call themselves Jumma. Among them are around 400,000 Buddhist Chakma and Marma who form the largest group, followed by the Hindu, Christian and Animist peoples of Tripura. In order to suppress calls for autonomy, Muslim landless from the Bengal Delta were resettled to the CHT since the 1970's. During the following guerrilla war which lasted for decades, the native groups fought against this military-secured settlement policy.

The 2.5 million indigenous people of Bangladesh were denied constitutional acknowledgement in June 2011. Since then, the government in Dhaka denies the existence of indigenous communities and even wants to ban the term "indigenous" from official documents. UN special correspondent Lars-Anders Baer was blamed to have prepared an untransparent and biased critical report on the implementation oft the CHT peace treaty.