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Adjournment speech: Chittagong Hill Tracts

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 16 Jun 2017

Tuesday 13 June

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (21:37): On another matter, today I join members and supporters of the Chittagong Hill Tribes Indigenous Jumma Association Australia. They gathered together at our parliament to protest against the brutal treatment of their compatriots and for the implementation of the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tribes accord. The Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh have been affected by what has been described as genocide or ethnic cleansing for many years. In the 1960s and 1970s, thousands were forced off their land to make way for reservoirs and hydroelectric schemes, displacement made worse by massacres against the Jumma people—that is the collective name for all indigenous peoples in the region.

Violence, particularly sexual violence, is routinely carried out by Bangladeshi settlers and the military alike. A 2014 report from Amnesty International found: 117 Indigenous women had faced physical and sexual assault; 57 per cent were children; 21 of these women were raped or gang raped; and seven were killed. The Amnesty report also stated that during the first few weeks of 2015, at least three confirmed rapes were reported within sight of military checkpoints supposed to bring security to the area. These are only the reported incidents; the true figure is likely to be much higher. It is commonplace for the police not to report rape, and medical staff are pressured against doing so.

Crimes against the Chittagong Hill Tracts people continue. Today I met with a number of their representatives. I share their concern about the attacks on 2 June 2017, the mass arson of Indigenous Jumma villages at Langadu by Bengali settlers was carried out with support of military and police. About 250 houses and shops of indigenous peoples of several villages were torched. One 70-year-old woman was burnt alive as she could not flee. Hundreds are homeless, including children and elderly. Schoolchildren are unable to go to school, as fire took everything. Protest demonstrations in the Chittagong Hill Tracts against the arson are being brutally attacked by members of the Bangladeshi border guard and police. I do support the call of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Indigenous Jumma Association for the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tracts accord, including demilitarisation of the CHT to be fully implemented. Honouring the CHT accord is the key to stopping the decades of violence that these people have suffered for far too long and in such extreme forms.

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