The secretary-general of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, Joan Carling, said Monday at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that militarization of Indigenous territories in Asia is exacerbating human rights violations.
About two-thirds of the world’s Indigenous population lives in Asia, where common problems in the region include an increased military presence in Indigenous communities, and the denial of Indigenous rights to land.
Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, home to 11 Indigenous groups is one of the most militarized areas of the world. The military bases there were established in a 20-year war between the government of Bangladesh and Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti, a political party formed to represent the Indigenous peoples of that area.
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Despite a 1997 peace accord, military control persists in the area.
“Almost 18 years have passed and major commitments have not been fulfilled,” said Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Indigenous People’s Forum Sanjeeb Drong during the event, as published on the Indigenous Voices in Asia website.
Land grabbing is also a major issue, just like in the resource-rich Mindanao island of the Philippines, as Indigenous leader Josephine Pagalan pointed out.
Mindano is home to the majority of the country’s Indigenous groups, who are collectively known as the Lumads. The Philippines military has forcefully evicted many Lumad peoples in order to expand the mining industries’ operations. They have also been involved in killing Indigenous leaders.