Eminent citizens of the country have called on the government to halt construction of the "illegal" five-star hotel of Marriott Hotels and Resorts, of the Sikder Group, in areas where the ethnic Mro community lives in Chimbuk-Thanchi of Bandarban.
Expressing concerns over the expected evictions of the Mro peoples, because of such establishments, they have said the transfer of land to non-indigenous people for such establishments is completely illegal as per international law, the Constitution of the country, the hill tracts peace accord act, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act.
They argued that the eviction of the ethnic minority community from the area through long-term planning is comparable to genocide.
While speaking at a virtual press conference on Saturday, the eminent citizens asked for an immediate halt to all work, including the construction of the hotel and amusement park, which may destroy nature, traditional livelihood practices and culture.
They said if the project is implemented, six Mro villages will face direct eviction from around 1,000 acres of land in the Chimbuk and Naitang hills where the ethnic community has been engaged in Jhum cultivation for centuries and have: homesteads, crematoria, sacred stones, sacred trees, water resources, and so on.
Additionally, approximately 10,000 residents of 116 areas will suffer permanent damage to their traditional livelihood practices in various ways because of the construction of the hotel and at some point the Mro tribe of this area will become extinct, they added.
Serajul Islam Choudhury, professor emeritus at Dhaka University, observed that the development project that has been undertaken, by silently evicting the Mro people, is a project aimed at serving the interests of profiteers.
This project needs to be canceled immediately, he said, adding that the construction work that has started needs to be stopped.
"The project is completely unethical, inhuman and illegal. The land required for the construction of the hotel has been illegally occupied and it violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that asks for ensuring the rights to life and liberty of all human beings," he added.
Lawyer Shahdin Malik said the main motto of most of those in power now is to make money, while most of the state institutions are unjustly cooperating with them in making money. "This five-star hotel project is a continuation of that practice," he said.
Anu Mohammad, professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said such projects are a part of the current development trend in Bangladesh. "However, the common people have no importance in this development process. This development is only serving the interests of the profiteers and the business community. This will bring about a humanitarian catastrophe."
Mentioning that the Zila Parishad has allotted land for the hotel project, Chakma Raja Barrister Debashish Roy said the parishad has no jurisdiction to allocate the land under the Tenancy Act, the hill tracts accord act and the Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, said, "We demand immediate action to look into the allegations of intimidation and threats on people who are protesting against the project and take necessary measures to stop those."
The programme was moderated by Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of the Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, while Gautam Dewan, president of CHT Citizens Committee presented the keynote paper.
It was alleged at the event that Sikder Group started occupying land for the construction of the hotel in October in direct association with hired hooligans.
The event was also addressed, among others, by Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh; Shaheen Anam, chief executive of the Manusher Jonno Foundation; economist MM Akash; and Khushi Kabir, coordinator at Nijera Kori.