GENEVA (9 February 2021) – UN human rights experts* said today Bangladesh should suspend the construction of a large-scale tourist resort in the Chittagong Hills Tracts because it threatens to dispossess the indigenous Mro peoples of their traditional lands and cause serious environmental damage.
The Bangladesh Army and Sikder Group conglomerate company R&R Holdings Limited started construction in September 2020 on Mro land in the Bandarban district.
The experts said they were disturbed about irregular land leasing practices and the Army's denial of access for grazing and water resources on traditional lands the Mro depend on for culture and identity.
"We are concerned that threats and intimidation have escalated in January against indigenous human rights defenders who are peacefully defending the land rights of the community," said the experts. "We call on the government to allow peaceful demonstrations, to refrain from threatening protesters and to refrain from the use of force against peaceful assemblies."
The five-star tourism project will reportedly include a Marriott hotel and would require an extensive network of buildings, roads, drainage and sewage system which would pollute and harm the biodiversity in the area. Some 10,000 people will be at risk of eviction due to construction.
'We call on good faith consultations to be held in order to seek the free, prior and informed consent from the affected indigenous community," the experts said. 'It is also essential that a thorough environmental and social impact assessment is undertaken in the area."
"The Government of Bangladesh must urgently ensure a safe environment for those who defend the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples and protect them from reprisals," urged the experts.
In December 2020, several United Nations experts highlighted their concerns in a joint communication to the Government of Bangladesh and to R&R Holdings Limited and Marriott lnternational. All communications and responses will be publicly available here on 20 February 2021.
*The experts: Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Dante Pesce (Chair), Surya Deva (Vice-Chair), Githu Muigai, Elżbieta Karska, and Anita Ramasastry, Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises; David R. Boyd, Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council's independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures' experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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