'The Sundarbans is a safe zone now'
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal on Friday warned that anybody attempting to commit any robbery in the Sundarbans will be punished as the government will do everything to keep the mangrove forest safe.
He was speaking at a program at Sheikh Helaluddin Stadium, celebrating one year since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared the Sundarbans free of robbers.
The Sundarbans was a dangerous place for tourists and those dependent on it, but it has been made free of robbers and criminal gangs, he said.
“The Sundarbans is a safe zone now. Thousands of tourists go sightseeing while those dependent on the forest are working without fear [of robbers],” the minister said.
Prime Minister Hasina on November 1 last year, declared the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, free of criminal gangs after the last remaining pirate gangs laid down arms.
At that time, 58 pirates surrendered before the Home Minister in Bagerhat.
The robbers who are still trying to commit robberies must be punished, the minister said.
“We’ve information about all the activities here and everyone will be brought to justice,” he said. “It’s our promise to keep the Sundarbans safe.”
The Home Minister also cautioned the people who patronise robbers.
He said cases, except rape and murder, against criminal gangs, who had surrendered and reintegrated into society, will be dissolved gradually.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said it has so far conducted 246 successful drives and arrested 586 criminals of various gangs in the Sundarbans. It seized 780 firearms and 41,955 bullets while 163 pirates were killed in gunfights.
RAB also recovered nine Royal Bengal Tiger cubs, 23 tiger hides, 29 deer, 129 deer hides and various wild animals during the drives.
A taskforce was established in 2012 with RAB, police, Coast Guard, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) and Forest Department. The RAB Director General was the chief coordinator of the taskforce.
Thirty-two former chiefs of criminal gangs and 328 members surrendered between May 31, 2016 and November 1, 2018. And they have been reintegrated into the society.