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

Unchanged Situation

Govt crackdown on opposition continued ahead of Jan elections, protests by garment workers turned deadly and Rohingya refugees fled country amid dire conditions and rampant insecurity.

Govt continued pressure on opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). After security forces broke up BNP’s “grand rally” in capital Dhaka on 28 Oct, opposition claimed authorities subsequently arrested at least 13,200 activists and leaders. In response to crackdown, BNP organised series of “blockades” and “hartals” throughout Nov aimed at inflicting economic damage to pressure govt to give way to neutral govt ahead of vote, leading to confrontations between police and opposition supporters that killed paramilitary officer and several civilians. Ruling Awami League dispatched stick-wielding supporters to keep roads opens and employed harsh rhetoric: PM Sheikh Hasina 4 Nov instructed supporters “burn the hands of those who are out to set vehicles on fire”. U.S. ambassador Peter Haas 13 Nov sought political dialogue between main parties but govt rejected offer, claiming “the ship has sailed”. With BNP certain to boycott poll, Awami League is trying to entice or pressure wavering parties to participate and enhance election’s credibility.

Garment workers staged protests, leading to deadly clashes. Tens of thousands of garment workers starting late Oct demanded higher wages to meet rising living costs, forcing hundreds of factories to close; garment sector accounts for 80% of exports. Near-daily clashes between police and protestors killed four before protests 14 Nov ended amid police crackdowns, threats from employers and govt pressure.

Prospects of Rohingya refugee repatriation appeared dim. Resumption of heavy fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine state mid-Nov dashed govt’s hopes for repatriation (see Myanmar). Rohingya continued to flee dire conditions in camps and pay people smugglers to flee across Bay of Bengal: five vessels carrying 866 people 14-19 Nov landed on Indonesia’s Aceh province after two months at sea. UN estimated over 3,500 refugees took the perilous journey in 2022, up from 700 year before.

Dialogue resumed in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Militant group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) and govt’s Peace Establishment Committee 5 Nov held first face-to-face meeting and first dialogue since July ceasefire; KNF reiterated demands for greater autonomy ahead of further talks in Dec.

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10 nov 2022
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