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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Peace talks with KNF put on hold 

  • Shai Hla outlined series of events leading to suspension
  • KNF persisted in its armed activities, violating agreements
Update : 04 Apr 2024, 10:13 PM

Bandarban Hill District Council Chairman and Convener of the Peace Establishment Committee Kya Shai Hla on Thursday announced a suspension of peace negotiations with the separatist group Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF).

The announcement came during a press conference held at the Bandarban Hill District Council in the morning. Shai Hla outlined the series of events leading to the suspension.

Earlier, the home minister and the police declared that the KNF was responsible for the bank robberies in Ruma and Thanchi of Bandarban on two consecutive days.

After conducting raids for months, law enforcers last year unearthed that KNF members had provided training to members of the militant group Jamatul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya in Bandarban in exchange for money. 

Formed in 2017 by former Dhaka University student Nathan Bom, the KNF aims at establishing separate governance in nine upazilas of the Chittagong Hill Tracts: Baghaichari, Barkal, Belaichari and Jurachari upazilas of Rangamati hill district and Ruma, Thanchi, Alikadam and Rowangchhari upazilas under Bandarban. 

The group’s military wing is known as the Kuki-Chin Army and consists of young male and female members of the Bom community. The group is believed to maintain close ties with like-minded separatist groups operating in Mizoram and Manipur of India and Rakhine State in Myanmar.

In a letter to the prime minister on December 8, KNF President Nathan Bom urged the government to create a conducive atmosphere for a ceasefire and on modalities of disarmament and grant its demand for a Kuki-Chin State within and under the ambit of the Constitution.

In August 2023, terming the KNF a terrorist organization, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Peace Accord Implementation and Monitoring Committee asked the government to crack down on it

The committee also advised the secretary of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs to send a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs to take swift action against them.

The peace talks

The peace negotiations with the KNF began with a discussion on May 29, 2023, aiming to reintegrate the armed organization KNF into civilian life. Subsequently, the Peace Establishment Committee was formed comprising 18 members on June 9 of the same year.

Despite several virtual meetings and two rounds of direct dialogue held on November 5, 2023, and March 5, 2024, the KNF persisted in its armed activities, violating agreements made in two memoranda of understanding regarding abstention and other matters, Kya Shai Hla said.

He condemned the recent incidents, including the attack on Sonali Bank in Ruma on April 2, where government officials and customers were taken hostage, and the subsequent looting of weapons from police and Ansar forces. He also said the abduction of locals and other criminal activities by repeatedly breaching the agreement terms have prompted this decision.

Who are the KNF and Jama'atul Ansar?

The KNF, or the Bom Party, surfaced on the scene in 2022 after the Indian border forces arrested a dozen members with arms and ammunition in Mizoram. 

The KNF president, Nathan Bom, passed his master's degree from the Fine Arts Faculty of Dhaka University. He was an active member of the Dhaka metropolitan branch and central committee of JSS' student organization Pahari Chhatra Parishad (PCP). He is also the founding president of Kuki-Chin National Development Organization (KNDO). 

Nathan, who has authored six books, worked on the sculpture of MN Larma at Chengi Square in Khagrachari. He was the first from the Bom community to take part as an independent candidate in the 2018 parliamentary election.

In October 2022, law enforcers discovered that KNF was training members of Jama'atul Ansar in exchange for money.

Last year, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said Jamatul Ansar signed a formal agreement with the banned militant outfit Ansar al-Islam in order to cooperate.

Jama'atul Ansar Ameer Anisur Rahman alias Mahmud signed an agreement with the leaders of Ansar al-Islam at a meeting held in Kishoreganj in 2022. Later, Ansar al-Islam provided money to Jama'atul Ansar.

According to the agreement, Ansar al-Islam took over responsibility of training the members of Sharqiyah on IT and security. In return, Jama'atul Ansar pledged to provide training and weapons to Ansar al-Islam members in the hilly areas. 

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