The road will help security forces conduct more patrols, allow more trade in south east region
The government is constructing a 1,036km border road across the three hilly districts of Rangamati, Khagrachhari, and Bandarban to aid the fight against smuggling as well as boost trade and tourism.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the first phase of the border road in March 2018. The phase includes construction of 317 kilometres of new roads along the country’s south-eastern border by June 2021.
Bangladesh's south-eastern hill region shares 330km of its border with India and 210km with Myanmar. The total work to construct the border road will take approximately 10 years.
Regarding the border road, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said: “Myanmar and India have borders with Bandarban, Rangamati, and Khagrachhari. Therefore, border roads are being constructed to ensure security in the areas.
“There will be more investment in the areas after the construction of the border roads. Many tourists will visit CHT to enjoy the natural beauty,” he added.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune last week, a senior army official in Bandarban said the district shares 144km of its border with Mayanmar and 46km with India. Of the total length, about 28km is totally unguarded.
“We do not have any communication access in those areas; even Border Guard Bangladesh do not have any outposts in that 28km,” the army official said, asking to remain anonymous
Superintendent of Rangamati Police Alamgir Kabir told Dhaka Tribune: “The Marma Liberation Party has been active in the Bandarban border area for the last three years. Sometimes, it is tough to reach remote areas.”
A top intelligence official of Bandarban told Dhaka Tribune: “Recently, a Bangladeshi armed group of CHT has been trying to make a connection with an insurgent group of Myanmar to buy arms and ammunition. Already, they have heavy weapons like machine guns, self-loading rifles, M16s, AK-47s, AK-22s, AK-56s, and even rocket-propelled grenades. They are using this barren forest as a safe place for training purposes. Once the border road is constructed, there can be more patrols so the insurgency will stop and the illegal arms training too.”
After Ecnec approval of the project, AHM Mustafa Kamal, former planning minister, said: “The construction of roads in that region is crucial because of its susceptibility to weapon and drug smuggling, as well as human trafficking. Border roads on the rugged hilly frontiers will enable Border Guard Bangladesh and other security forces to keep a tight watch, and help the expansion of trade, commerce and tourism facilities in the hilly areas.”