Restrictions in CHT to go: Only foreign researchers have to take home ministry permission for visit

An aerial view of Nilgiri in Bandarban. Photo Wikipedia

The government is withdrawing the wholesale restrictions banning foreign nationals and Bangladeshi citizens from meeting or talking unsupervised with indigenous people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

However, foreign researchers will still need to seek the home ministry’s permission to visit the region.

The decision came at a meeting at the home ministry on Sunday. The meeting, chaired by State Minister for Home Asaduzzaman Kamal, was attended by high officials of different ministries and chiefs of different law enforcement agencies.

In a circular issued in January, the home ministry said any Bangladeshi or foreign individual or organisation can meet or talk with indigenous people in the CHT only in the presence of a magistrate or security personnel.

“We have withdrawn the circular that was issued recently. From now on, the foreign tourists will be able to visit the CHT districts just like before by seeking permission from the district administration,” Asaduzzaman told The Daily Star.

The restriction on Bangladeshi citizens has also been lifted, the minister said.

“Only the foreign researchers will have to take prior permission from the ministry and they have to apply at least 20 days before their visit,” he said.

However, the foreign tourists will have to inform the home ministry about their visit so that law enforcers could ensure their security.

Before the January circular was issued, foreigners needed permission only from the district administration and there was no timeframe for submitting the applications. On the contrary, the January circular made it mandatory for all foreign nationals to submit an application to the home ministry at least a month before the intended visit.

However, the decision to lift the restriction is yet to reach the district administrations of the three hill districts: Rangamati, Bandarban and Khagrachhari.

Contacted, two deputy commissioners said they haven’t been informed of any such decision yet.

“I have not received any circular regarding cancellation of the home ministry’s restriction upon visits of Bangladeshi and foreign nationals,” said one of the deputy commissioners requesting anonymity.

Indigenous community and eminent citizens slammed the January circular, terming it unconstitutional and undemocratic.

When asked about the withdrawal of the circular, several indigenous leaders said they were not informed of the decision yet.

Source: Daily Star