New separatist group set to emerge in Chittagong Hill Tracts

Mehadi Hassan Palash:

A new separatist group is poised to formally emerge as Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts or CHT during the upcoming rainy season, which they believe to be auspicious for starting anything, Parbattanews has learnt.

They aim at launching an armed movement for establishing a fully autonomous state in the CHT, covering almost a half of the region, according to credible sources.

In late March, India’s Border Security Force or BSF arrested six members of the KNF from Prava in the Indian state of Mizoram, bordering Tri-Junction of Bilaichhari in Bangladesh’s Rangamati.

And since then, the KNF has become an issue for discussion.

Earlier on March 24 around 6:00am, according to Indian media, BSF troops of 199 Bn BSF arrested the six members of the KNF from Mizoram’s Prava and recovered some illegal armed equipment from them.

Among the illegal equipment were commando knives, and a letter with the seals of the president and the chief of staff of the Kuki-Chin National Army, the local BSF commander said.

The arrested – identified as Ramdindliyan, 20, Sangkhu Bawm, 32, Liyan Bavisang, Lalsangrem Bawm, 34, Lalram Maui, 45, and Nunsang Bawm, 39,  all hailing from Bandarban’s Ruma upazila – were suspected to be members of Kuki-Chin National Army, an armed separatist group in the CHT.

Though India media did not report the recovery of any weapon from the arrested, the photo obtained by Parbattanews shows them carrying automatic weapons.

After necessary interrogation, sources said, the BSF has handed over the arrested to Langtalai police.

According to the KNF, they aim for establishing their state comprising Baghaichhari, Barkal, Bilaichhari, Roangchhari, Ruma, Thanchi, Lama and Alikadam upazilas in the CHT. This group came into being in 2006. Initially, it was known as the Cookie-China National Development Organization (KNDO).

The KNF consists of six tribal groups namely Bam, Pankhua, Lusai, Khumi, Mro and Khyang. They consider themselves to be the original inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. At the same time, they consider the people of Chakma, Marma, Tripura etc, to be outsiders like Burmese and Indians. That is why they are against to the armed groups like JSS and UPDF.

The president of the KNF is Nathan Bam, a graduate of Dhaka University, a painter and writer. He was a candidate from Bandarban in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

The armed group was formed in 2016. Originally called the Kuki-China National Volunteers (KNV), it is now known as the Kuki-Chin National Army (KNA). Initially, they conducted peaceful activities and established relations with Burma’s Chin State and India’s Manipur State. In the first batch, more than 100 members were sent for training in Manipur. It then sent 100 members to the Indian state of Manipur and the Burmese states of Karen and Kachin for guerrilla training.

They returned to the Chittagong Hill Tracts in 2019 after completing infantry and commando training. At first they lied low for a while. Now they are active. All members of this group are Christians, according to KNF sources.

The KNF has called on the international community to intervene and infiltrate the Kuki-Chin state of the Chittagong Hill Tracts to help them assert their rights. He called on the government to meet their demands or face an armed conflict.

According to sources, at present the number of the KNF armed group is 3,000-4,000, who are active in CHT and Mizoram.

According to Parbattanews, the training period for the armed members of the current KNA is three months. Of them, one month of theoretical and physical training is given in Mizoram and the other two months’ is given through engaging them in the war against the Myanmar army. More than 20 members of the group have died in the war against the Myanmar army. Each member of the KNA, trained in armed warfare, is highly skilled in military tactics and belligerent. In addition, they have lethal automatic weapons.

According to sources, most of the KNA members are leading a civilian life in disguise awaiting central directives, though they have a hideout near Keokradong hill, Remakri UP in Ruma of Bandarban. They return to their hideout soon after they come out for various needs.

The KNF is currently making its presence known on social media by regularly uploading various pictures and videos of their armed training. Although there are separatist armed groups like JSS and UPDF in the CHT, they are not seen to have declared armed groups like the KNA is doing. The KNA group’s videos are similar to those of the Burmese rebels, which have been seen on social media for so long. Therefore, if the government does not take conscious and necessary steps in this regard from now on, the conscious people from the CHT fear that that one day the country will have to pay a heavy price.

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