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8 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM

Arms smuggling, on the rise in CHT

Client list includes regional parties, militant groups
DEEPAK ACHARJEE, back from Chittagong Hill Tracts
Arms smuggling, on the rise in CHT

The demand for sophisticated arms has increased among regional political parties, militant groups and national political parties, according to sources in law enforcement agencies and regional political parties. Various kinds of arms, such as AK-22 automatic rifles, G-3 rifles, MK-11 rifles, AK-47, AK-56, M-16 rifles, nine mm pistols and hand grenades are entering the country from Myanmar and India, through the porous borders along the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), the sources added. It is alleged that sections of the three local parties of the CHT—the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF), Parbottya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS), and the Parbottya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti (Reformist)—are involved in arms smuggling. Sections of members of the local parties in the hills are collecting the sophisticated arms from different insurgency groups of Myanmar, such as the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (ARSO), National United Party of Arakan (NUA), Democratic Party of Arakan (DPA), Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front (ARIF), Arakan Army (AA), People's Party of Arakan (PPA), and the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), as well as separatist groups in India like the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa), according to the sources.
Some areas, including Chhoto Horina and Boro Horina, in Borokol upazila of Rangamati, Sajek, Andarmanik, Fokirachori, and Bilaichori in Baghaichori upazila, Naraichori, Panchori, Dudukchori, Kedarachori of Dighinala upazila, Baganbazar, Borobil, Achalong and Ramgor Bazar in Ramgarh upazila, Thanchi and Naikhongchori areas in Bandarban are the smuggling routes for arms and ammunition, the sources claimed.
Law enforcement and intelligence agencies said that on one hand, these CHT parties are organising surrenders of some of the smuggled weapons to prove their supremacy in their respective areas, to realise their goal of turning the CHT into an "independent state".
On the other hand, they are also collecting large amounts of funds by selling these arms to different terror and militant groups and also political parties.
When visiting Rangamati and Bandarban districts last week, this correspondent spoke to some activists of regional parties of the hills.
Robin Chakma (not his real name), a member of the armed group of the PCJSS in Rangamati, said smuggling of sophisticated arms has increased due to demand in the hills.
“We delivered at least 22 big arms—15 AK-47 and seven AK-22 automatic rifles—to different terrorist and militant groups, like the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), and members of different political parties last month. They (terrorists and militant groups) are purchasing the sophisticated arms by paying higher prices than in the past. As far as I know, an AK-47 automatic rifle is selling at Tk. 4,00,000 and Tk. 3,00,000 has to be paid for an AK-22 rifle. After receiving the smuggled arms in the border areas, we, who have military training, are delivering the arms to our clients through carry bags and using ‘chander gari’. We have different groups to receive, carry and deliver smuggled arms to the clients,” the PCJSS member said.
PCJSS spokesman Mangal Chakma said activists of his party are not involved in arms smuggling or collecting of toll and kidnapping. But he said: “In some cases, members of some regional political parties, arrested by the law enforcement agencies, are involved in terror activities.”
When contacted, the superintendent of police of Rangamati district, Syed Tariqul Hassan, told The Independent that the military and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) are alert in the area so that nobody can carry out any criminal or smuggling activities. But the senior police officer said they were yet to get any proof of connection between local terror groups and militant outfits in the country. Law enforcement agencies said that weapons like the US-made M-16, German HK-33, and a number of Indian heavy arms were being smuggled, which even the Bangladesh Army is yet to use.  Sources said when interrogating some members of the Jamaatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) in connection with the Gulshan attack, it was revealed that the three AK-22 rifles used in the attack were bought from the Chittagong Hill Tracts. JMB members Rasel and Nayeem, arrested recently from Chittagong, told the police that they bought MK-11 rifles from the CHT.
According to the sources, aided by terror groups operating in the hill districts, members of militant groups are taking training in the deep forests covering the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The militants also procure foreign-made grenades and other ammunition from the terror groups in the hills. There is at least 113km of porous border, out of a total of 198km, with Myanmar, and 150km of porous border, out of a total of 281km, with India.


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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