By Mujib Chowdhury, a correspondent on Internal Security of Bangladesh
Dhaka: It is not the first time that a group of terrorist operating from the backyard of Bangladesh is exposed by a random incidence taken place between the members of the terrorist organization and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
The recent clash between BGB and Arakan Army (AA) terrorists in the Barha Madok area of Thanchi, Bandarban is a clearly indication of a serious matter which needs to be handled strictly and seriously by the ministry of defence.
On Wednesday, the clash left Naik Zakir Hossain of the BGB wounded who was taken to Chittagong Military Hospital to treat the injury. The clash happened after the terrorists opened fire on BGB personnel who were taking 13 horses through the Barha Madok area, and soon the BGB retaliated firing back to the terrorists. Subsequently, a joint operation of Bangladesh Army and BGB was launched, and captured a member of AA, Ong Owong Rakhai, 20 along with uniforms of Arakan Army, laptops, digital cameras, motorcycles and 2 horses.
The question remains on how and how long the terrorist organization is operating and using the Chittagong Hill tracts where 11 ethnic tribes are proudly hosted since the country achieved Independence in 1971.
What is Arakan Army?
Arakan Army is a terrorist organization founded by the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist of Myanmar in 2009 currently based and trained in the eastern state of Myanmar, Kachin State as well as in the western state, Rakhine (Arakan) State where the majority of Rakhine people live.
The main objective of the organization is to protect Rakhine people and to establish a separate country called Rakhine fatherland, exclusively for Rakhine Buddhists. Interestingly the country that the army wants to create involves lands from both Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The campaign for creation of the country has been running for many decades before Arakan Army was founded, and in recently years, the campaign intensifies urging Rakhine from both sides of the international border to actively participate in fulfilling creating the country. They believe and consider that the whole Chittagong division belongs to Rakhine, many of them publicly announced in social media that Chittagong will soon be a part of their future country even if needed be terrorizing whole Bangladesh.
The sudden rise of Arakan Army over less than a decade posts some serious questions on how and who fund it, how it secretly operates in Bangladesh, and the consequences of letting a terrorist organization runs inside one of the most democratic countries of the world.
An established link
Rakhine, also known as Marma people in Bangladesh predominately follows Buddhism, and it is estimated that there are more than 200,000 Marma living in three hill tracts of Bandarban, Khagrachari and Rangamati.
Although it is known that Marma are citizens of Bangladesh, they are illegally made the citizens of Myanmar by the Arakan (Rakhine) State government, given that they follow Buddhism and they are the same ethnic group. Being the dual citizens makes it easier to establish bases and operate the terror organization in the hill tracts with full impurity from Marma politicians, and without being caught by any law-enforcement authorities of Bangladesh.
Members of Parliament, Marma politicians and businessmen from the hill tracts are reportedly involved in supporting the smooth operation of Arakan Army from building camps, recruiting men and women, providing havens for Rakhine terrorists from Myanmar, financing the organization and flowing or movement of the members of the organization across the border.
Marma of Bangladesh have a strongly established link with Rakhine of Myanmar. The resettlement of Marma to Arakan State of Myanmar indicates their significant aim and mutual understanding regardless of living in two different countries. The resettlement lands are originally owned by Rohingya Muslim of Myanmar who have been constantly targeted and persecuted by both Myanmar government and Rakhine people from Arakan State.
“The Model Villages” are strategically built in Rohingya majority townships and villages in order to de-popularize Rohingya who still dominate in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships nearly the Bangladesh-Myanmar border despite the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya started in 2012, which aims to expel Rohingya from Arakan State and to start seizing the lands in the establishment of Rakhine Fatherland.
On 24th March 2014, twenty three Marma were arrested by BGB while entering into Bangladesh, who later confirmed that they were the citizens of Bangladesh and back to the country after helping Rakhine in Myanmar. It is also reported that many Marma took part in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2012 who crossed the border and started persecution and killing of Rohingya at the time of high tension.
The capital of Arakan State, Sittwe once held equal population of Rohingya to |Rakhine community, was badly hit during the ethnic cleansing, and almost all of Rohingya community have been driven out of the capital and their villages were controlled by Rakhine since then. The Arakan State government has already started settlement of Marma from Bangladesh in the lands that Rohingya were forced to lost.
Rohingya whose root is traced back to many centuries in the western Arakan State, are now termed as illegal Bengali immigrant and considered to have no rights in the state where they have lived peacefully with their sister community, Rakhine. Resettled Marma from Bangladesh are often blamed to be the real causes of disturbance to the peaceful existence of Rakhine and Rohingya.
Since the ethnic cleansing against Rohingya, the relationship between politicians of Marma from Bangladesh and Rakhine from Myanmar becomes ever strong, and at the same time Arakan Army finds more supports in the establishment of Rakhine Fatherland which can be a worry sign for the sovereignty of both countries.
Drug trafficking, the building block of the terror organization
The topic which comes up in every newspaper of Bangladesh in everyday fashion, is not other than Yaba tablets trafficking. Yaba tablets are commonly known as “BABA”, “GARI”, “GUTI” or “BORI” in Bangladesh. They are powerful addictive stimulants mainly consist of methamphetamine and caffeine, and administered either swallowing or snorting after crashing them into powder.
Myanmar is the largest producer of Yaba tablets in the world, several armed rebels control the production and distribution of the drug. The mass production takes place in the eastern part of Myanmar where Arakan Army has strong base, as well as in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia.
The sudden rise of Arakan Army can be found in the drug production and trafficking. Production occurs where they are based in the eastern part of Myanmar, from where the distribution takes place to Arakan (Rakhine) State. With the established link between Rakhine of Myanmar and Marma of Bangladesh, the drug reaches to the shores of Bangladesh through the southernmost part, Teknaf to proper Bangladesh.
It is the cycle of production, distribution and finally conversion into black money which keeps the terror organization running and strengthening which dares to challenge both the governments of Bangladesh and Myanmar.
There are several top-level people involve in the drug trafficking, from the politicians in Myanmar to the politicians in Bangladesh. Without their support and impunity, it is hardly impossible to reach such a large amount of drugs reaching to the people of Bangladesh day in and day out.
Mr. Abdur Rahman Badi, the current Cox’s Bazar-4 MP is one of the notorious drug lords who has built his luxurious lifestyle based on the drug trafficking in his region as well as many parts of Bangladesh.
It doesn’t need any brain to understand the recent finding of a multi-crore mansion found during the raid this week. It was owned by a Rakhine from Myanmar who was confirmed to be linked with Arakan Army. If it is not from the black money extracted from the drug trafficking, what it is?.
Bangladesh Youths and internal security in great danger
Although the recent clash with the terrorists seemed minor for many of us, it posts a great danger to the long-term security of our nation and the future of our youths.
Their fearless desire to seize part of our nation to build their with or without the helps of some of our people, is indeed not tolerable for any of us who loves our nation more than anything else. The terrorists need to be crushed to dust with all our means if we want to save our nation from the threat that constantly haunts many of us. It is also the duty and responsibility of our law-enforcement agencies, army, police and border guards to completely root out the base of the terror organization and the haven providers in the hill tracts.
Our youths are our future. The terror organization also posts the security of the future of our youth more than anything else. Yaba drug trafficking is not only providing the organization with plenty of money, it also makes thousands of Bangladesh youths in the danger of miserable lives without future.
More raids and more security measures across the border and the hill tracts need to be taken by the government of Bangladesh if they want to build the country based on the productivity of youths.