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Cablegate: Gob Implementing Chittagong Hill Tract Peace Accords,

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKA #0825/01 2350924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH (CCY ADA332BB MSI8226-695)
R 230924Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9347
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2158
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2907

UNCLAS DHAKA 000825

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D COPY CAPTION

STATE FOR SCA/INSB, SCA/RA AND DRL
STATE FOR INR/OPS ACTING DIRECTOR MICHAEL P. OWNES
STATE PASS TO USAID

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINR MOPS PHUM PREL PGOV EAID BM BG
SUBJECT: GOB IMPLEMENTING CHITTAGONG HILL TRACT PEACE ACCORDS,
OPPOSITION PARTY HOWLS

REF: A) Dhaka 763
B) Dhaka 476 (NOTAL)

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission (CHTC) monitors credit
PM Sheikh Hasina's personal commitment to peace in the Chittagong
Hill Tracts with progress towards implementation of the 1997 Peace
Accords between the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and indigenous
groups. In an August 18 donor briefing, Commission Co-Chair Lord
Eric Avebury dismissed opposition Bangladesh National Party's (BNP)
claims that Hasina's decision to withdraw military units from the
Hill Tracts bordering India and Burma would foster insecurity. The
CHTC Co-Chair said the planned withdrawal was largely "cosmetic" and
would likely improve law and order in the Hill Tracts, where the
military stood accused of numerous human rights abuses. Despite
this progress, the Commission believes the GOB lacks a strategic
framework and implementation timetable. The polarization of
Bangladeshi politics on the issue could limit the window for
progress to the 4 and 1/2 years remaining until the next national
elections.

Making Progress, Thanks to PM Hasina
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On August 18, members of the Chittagong Hill Tracts
Commission briefed donors on their recent visits to the field and
meetings with GOB officials, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
(Note: The CHTC is an international NGO established to monitor
implementation of the 1997 Peace Accords signed between the GOB and
indigenous groups in the Chittagong Hill Tracts that abut India and
Burma (Ref. B).) Commission Co-Chair and Member of the UK House of
Lords Eric Avebury said, whereas earlier governments had sought to
suppress dissent in the Hill Tracts militarily, Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina was committed to a "political solution." Avebury said
the impact of Hasina's commitment was palpable in the Commission's
recent field visit; brigade commanders who had previously expressed
pessimism about reducing the military's role in the region now
voiced optimism the civil administration and police could
effectively govern the areas. In the six months since Hasina's
Awami League took power, the GOB had moved to close down
controversial commercial plantation agriculture on disputed land,
set up a commission to resolve land disputes, and announce a
withdrawal of military units from the Hill Tracts.

Planned Troop Withdrawal Good for Security
------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Avebury was dismissive of claims made by former PM
Khaleda Zia and other opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP)
leaders that the GOB's decision to withdraw some military units from
the Hill Tracts (Ref A) would invite insecurity in the region.
Avebury said three Brigade Commanders told the Commission that the
withdrawal would not lead to a rise in violence or disorder.
According to Avebury and other commissioners, the planned withdrawal
was largely "cosmetic," and would not reduce the military's ability
to exert its power throughout the Hill Tracts, where only 35 of more
than 300 military outposts would be closed. To the extent security
was affected, it would be for the better, argued Avebury, since the
military stood accused of numerous human rights abuses against the
local population.

GOB Needs a Roadmap, and Political Support
------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Avebury was concerned, however, that the GOB did not
possess a road map with verifiable timelines for implementation of
the 1997 Accords, especially for resolving the tens of thousands of
disputed land claims that arose out of previous GOB administrations'
efforts to populate the Hill Tracts with ethnic Bengalis by offering
land, often irregularly granted, to ethnic Bengali migrants.
According to Avebury, Hasina told the Commission the GOB could
finance implementation of the Accords, but she needed "moral and
political support" to push ahead with implementation in the face of
strong opposition. Asked what the donor community could do to help
the Commission, Avebury suggested that foreign missions could
impress on Hasina the need for a time-bound implementation plan
while providing the moral and political support she requested.

Comment: Praise-Worthy Political Solution
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Awami League government deserves recognition for its
work to implement the 1997 Chittagong Hill Tract Accords, which had
stalled during the BNP and caretaker regimes (Ref B). The challenge
for PM Hasina's government will be to ensure that civilian
authorities, especially the police, maintain law and order in the
wake of the military's withdrawal, providing security for settlers
while respecting the rights of indigenous groups. Opponents of the
Peace Accords, especially ethnic Bengali settlers, might instigate
conflict; even the perception of weakened security would likely
embolden critics of Hasina's "political solution." The United
States should continue to exploit opportunities to voice support for
the Peace Accords. Responding to a press question after his August
20 meeting with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni (septel), the Ambassador
reiterated U.S. support for implementation of the 1997 Peace
Accords.

MORIARTY.

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