Bangladesh

Years of deadlock between the two main political parties, the Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, have caused governance breakdowns, narrowed political debate, eroded the rule of law and widened social divisions. The continued threat of jihadist violence exacerbates these problems. Meanwhile, Bangladesh struggles to accommodate the presence of an estimated one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, whose return appears unlikely any time soon. Crisis Group aims to reduce conflict risks, including the spread of militancy, arising from political stagnation; to promote inclusive and accountable democratic institutions; and to urge adequate assistance for the refugees until conditions allow for safe return.

CrisisWatch Bangladesh

Deteriorated Situation

Conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state fuelled recruitment drive by Rohingya armed groups in Bangladesh’s refugee camps, raising prospect of greater spillover to come. 

War in Myanmar reverberated in Bangladesh’s refugee camps. In Myanmar, Arakan Army (AA) continued advance in northern Rakhine state after months-long campaign against regime and allegations of abuses against Rohingya community, including extrajudicial killings, torching villages and forced relocations (see Myanmar). In response, Rohingya armed groups – notably Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) – stepped up mostly forced recruitment in refugee camps in Bangladesh, including potentially several thousand young men and children as young as 14, with some refugees reportedly transferred to Myanmar military for training. Forced recruitment triggered wave of panic across camps; since 17 May, refugees staged nightly gatherings to oppose recruitment, in some cases beating RSO members. Fighting in Rakhine likely to escalate, forcing larger numbers of Rohingya across border or sparking wider conflict between AA and Rohingya armed groups as latter build up their forces further to curtail AA’s advance. Meanwhile, turf war in refugee camps between RSO and rival Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) resurged, with five killings reported mid-May. 

Insecurity persisted in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in south east. Security forces continued operations targeting Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) – which claims to represent six Kuki-Chin subgroups, largest of which is Bawm. Security forces 17 May announced detention of chief coordinator of KNF’s women’s wing in Bandarban’s Sadar district. Shootout 23 May killed two KNF members in Sadar. Human rights group Amnesty International 22 May said over 100 Bawm had been arbitrarily detained amid anti-KNF crackdown. PM Sheikh Hasina 23 May claimed there was international conspiracy to establish “Christian state” in CHT. Govt official in India’s Mizoram state mid-May said 127 Bangladeshis fled into Mizoram in previous week due to anti-KNF operation; state now hosts 1,368 refugees from CHT. 

Opposition boycotted local polls. Authorities 8 May held first phase of local polls for districts known as upazila parishad, which saw voter turnout of 36% – lowest since voting was introduced in 2009; opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted vote and claimed people had rejected election.

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In The News

7 Jan 2024
There is a risk of increased violence after the polls [in Bangladesh]. The New York Times

Pierre Prakash

Program Director, Asia
5 Jan 2024
The election will not resolve Bangladesh’s political crisis … Since the 2008 election … the country has not held a credible national election. The Guardian

Pierre Prakash

Program Director, Asia
10 Nov 2022
You might ask ‘why would the military be interested in negotiating to take them [Rohingya refugees] back when it was the one that forced them to leave for the military re... The New Humanitarian

Thomas Kean

Senior Consultant, Myanmar & Bangladesh
28 Dec 2019
Les autorités [Birmanes] ont donc pris des mesures qui touchent à la liberté de mouvement. Les réfugiés n’ont plus le droit de sortir des camps et les autorités ont coupé... RFI

Pierre Prakash

Program Director, Asia

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