Why did the Bangladesh Army, with a $4.1 billion defense budget, fail to contain a small Kuki-chin militant group?

The Kuki-chin National Army, a new militant group, wants independence for the mountainous area.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts have become one of the main routes of dangerous drug smuggling, including Marijuana, Yaba tablets, and ice from India and Myanmar into Bangladesh, resulting in insurgency in the country.

Two Bangladesh Army soldiers were killed and two officers injured in an attack in Bandarban district on May 16. The Kuki-Chin National Army ambushed the team during a raid, using improvised explosive devices and gunfire. The incident occurred during a conflict between Manipur’s majority Meitei community and the tribal Kuki ethnic community. After this incident, a member of the KNA and a journalist were arrested, alleged to maintain a connection with the KNA.

Corruption and money laundering businesses

Poor training, equipment, and corruption led to the incompetence of the Bangladesh army. The corruption of the Bangladesh Army is the primary reason the Bangladesh army is incapable of defeating a small insurgence group in Chittagong hill tracts.

Bangladesh army has diverted its role to business enterprise instead of defending the country from internal and external threats, which is the primary reason Bangladesh army failed to contain the Kuki-chin National Army.

Kuki-Chin Army (KNA)

This ethnic separatist group is carrying out political and military activities to form an autonomous State in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) covering most of the Bandarban and Rangamati districts. The Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) is their political front, with an armed wing called the Kuki-Chin Army (KNA).

They have announced an autonomous’ Kuki-Chin State’ which encompasses Rangamati’s Baghaichhari, Barkal, Juraichhari, Bilaichhari, Roangchhari and Chimbuk Hills on the outskirts of Bandarban along with Ruma, Thanchi, Lama and Alikadam. They published a map and a flag of their proposed state and prepared for fighting.

The CHT, a remote area comprising the three districts- Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban- is a safe haven for various separatist and armed organisations. Kuki-Chin is accused of training an Islamic militant group named Jama’atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya in the hilly areas of Bandarban. They used to raise a part of their expense from here to run armed organizations. In October, the RAB arrested seven alleged members of the group and three members of KNA during an operation in the remote areas bordering Bandarban and Rangamati. At least 38 people, who went into hiding from different parts of the country, have been trained with militant skills at several training camps of a separatist group in the Hill Tracts, said the RAB.

The presence of such an armed group in remote areas along the border has posed a threat to internal and regional security. The organization is located in a complex and strategically important area, where the border of Bangladesh, Myanmar and Mizoram is. Mizoram shares 318 kilometers of border with Bangladesh. There are also several separatist groups in the remote areas of Mizoram. The KNF has linked and received training from armed groups in neighboring countries.

Initially, a group received guerilla, infantry and commando training from Manipur, Karen and Kachin. The trained members then started training the rest of the members. According to local media, at least 3 to 4 thousand trained KNA members are staying in and outside of the country. A group named almost the same as the KNF, the KNF and Kuki were formed in the Mizoram State in the 1990s to carve out a Kuki homeland or Kuki State.

The KNF, locally known as the ‘Bawm Party’, comprises six small ethnic community members, Bawm, Pangkhua, Lusai, Khumi, Mro and Khiang, belonging to the Kuki-Chin group. The Kuki-Chin is a geographic cluster of several ethnic communities of the Tibeto-Burman language group, the majority population of the Chin State of Myanmar and Mizoram of India. They also live in the hilly areas of India’s Assam, Manipur and Nagaland States, along with the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Due to ethnic homogeneity, it’s easy for the KNF to get support by influencing people across the border. Indian media reported that more than 500 members of the Kuki-Chin tribe crossed the border and took shelter in Mizoram since the army started an operation in the Hill Tracts on November 11. Meanwhile, ZO Reunification Organisation (ZORO), an umbrella body that works for the reunification of Chin, Kuki and Mizo tribes of India, Myanmar and Bangladesh, who share the same ancestry and culture with the Mizos of Mizoram, made a statement that a joint operation by the RAB and the Arakan Army has forced the Kuki-Chin people to `leave’ the country.

Amid the Manipur violence, the possibility of getting support has risen. The Kukis are one of the main counterparts in conflict with most Meiteis of Manipur. Meanwhile, the Mizoram Chief Minister has also stated in favor of cookies, which the Meitei of Manipur has strongly condemned. On the contrary, the attitude of the locals towards a small number of Rohingya refugees living in India is completely different from the attitude towards the refugees of this

Drug and arms trade by Kuki-Chin

Chinese State in Mizoram. In February this year, a resolution was passed in the Mizoram Assembly, which said these asylum seekers are Mizos’ blood-related.

Hence it is the responsibility of the Mizoram State to provide them with food, shelter etc. At the same time, the Mizoram Government has requested Delhi not to stop the BSF at the border. In an interview with the BBC, Justifying the support for the Kukis entered from Bangladesh, Mizoram Chief Minister Joramthanga said, “We have blood relations with them; you have to understand that.”

On the other hand, several rebel groups, including the Arakan Army, Chin Defense Force and Chin National Army in the Chin State of Myanmar, are a serious concern. Conflicts between these groups and with the government are almost regular in the State. The alarming matter is that the link and cooperation of the Kuki-Chin army with these groups will deteriorate the regional instability.

Also, several separatist organisations have been active in Chittagong Hill Tracts since the independence. As a result of conflicts and rivalries, people infiltrate with fear in the hills. Along with regular killings, abductions and extortions, these groups have created a reign of arms and drug smuggling over the hills. As a result, the Chittagong Hill Tracts have become one of the main routes of dangerous drug smuggling, including Marijuana, Yaba tablets, and ice from India.

The Assam Rifles (AR) officials said the Bangladesh army’s crackdown on the Kuki-Chin National Army (KCNA) was mainly due to the latter’s link with a Muslim terror group, whereas the resistance groups in Myanmar are involved in drug trafficking.

Indian Raw and Myanmar Army’s involvement

The insurgency of such armed groups inside the country will threaten the internal security of the country. Moreover, if such militant activities develop in this vulnerable and volatile trilateral border, it will disrupt regional security, peace and stability.

Neighboring country’s intelligence agencies, mainly India’s RAW and Myanmar security services, played a role in supporting Kuki-Chin for its active role and intensifying the activities of organized crime and arms trading.

Speaking at the Media Conclave held at the 23 Sector headquarters of the AR in Aizawl, the senior officers said the KCNA, active in Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, has been provided support by a terrorist group that is operating in Bangladesh.

The Assam Rifles officials said the resistance groups in the Chin State of Myanmar have been indulging in drug trafficking to fund the resistance movement and fight against the military junta, while also receiving funds from foreign countries.

The sudden surge in drug trafficking via Myanmar from the infamous Golden Triangle was due to the military coup in early 2021 as the civil administration collapsed and the Myanmar military presence in the Chin State became minimal.

The officials expressed fear that the ongoing turbulence in neighboring Myanmar could adversely impact Mizoram and Chittagong Hill Tracts, especially in the border areas causing instability in the long run.

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