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

Surge in ethnic armed group attacks in south east prompted major security operation and derailed fledgling peace talks; opposition announced boycott of local polls in May, as country felt spillover of Myanmar’s conflict. 

In Chittagong Hill Tracts, ethnic armed group stepped up raids and attacks. Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) – which claims to represent six Kuki-Chin subgroups, largest of which is Bawm – 2-3 April attempted three bank robberies in Bandarban district, two of which were successful; group 4 April reportedly fired on police station in Thanchi upazila and 5 April attacked checkpoint in Alikadam upazila; hundreds of KNF militants took part in operations across towns 20-30km apart, suggesting growing operational capacity. In response, security forces 5 April launched major operation against KNF, arresting in subsequent days up to 100 suspected members, including alleged KNF key leader; further raids 22 and 28 April killed three KNF members. KNF robberies and attacks derailed peace talks between group and govt delegation, which were scheduled for 22 April; some community leaders in Chittagong Hill Tracts called for renewed dialogue with KNF.

Main opposition party announced boycott of local elections in May. Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) 15 April opted to boycott upcoming local elections, which will take place in 150 of 495 upazilas (sub-districts) on 8 May; delayed decision signalled likely internal BNP divisions, with some activists seeking to participate to revitalise grassroots mobilisation. BNP refrained from launching major anti-govt activities since end of Ramadan in mid-April.

War in Myanmar spilt over border, raising prospect of new refugee influx. Heavy fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine state – where Arakan Army continued its offensive against military – prompted increasing numbers of military personnel and Rohingya civilians to cross border into Bangladesh. Bangladesh 25 April repatriated 288 regime officials, mainly Border Guard Police members, to Myanmar. Additionally, communal tensions rose significantly between Rakhine and Rohingya communities over military’s alleged forced recruitment of Rohingya and collaboration with Rohingya armed groups Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and Arakan Rohingya Army, both of which are predominately based in refugee camps in Bangladesh (see Myanmar). 

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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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