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UN experts call for halting Bandarban tourism resort

  • Published at 10:09 pm February 9th, 2021
Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park Bandarban Mro
The site of the proposed five-star hotel 'Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park' is cordoned off with warning tapes Dhaka Tribune

It threatens to dispossess the indigenous Mro peoples of their traditional lands and cause serious environmental damage, they say

Bangladesh should suspend the construction of a large-scale tourist resort in the hill district of Bandarban, United Nations human rights experts said on Tuesday.

They believe it threatens to dispossess the indigenous Mro peoples of their traditional lands and cause serious environmental damage, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

The experts are 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 of the 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 and Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The Bangladesh Army and Sikder Group conglomerate company, R&R Holdings Limited, started the construction of the resort 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 in a statement. “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 will require an extensive network of buildings, roads, drainage and sewage system which will pollute and harm biodiversity in the area. Some 10,000 people will be at risk of eviction due to the 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 statement 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 UN experts highlighted their concerns in a joint communication to the Government of Bangladesh and to R&R Holdings Limited and Marriott International.