People from Mualpipara under Paindu union parishad take shelter at the building of Marma Welfare Association in Ruma uapzila on 29 January 2023.

A bullet-ridden body of a Kuki-Chin National Front (KNF) member was recovered in Bandarban’s Ruma upazila on Sunday.

The unidentified body clad in KNF outfit was found at Arthapara area in Paindu union in the morning.

Law enforcers said incidents of gunfight took place on several occasions during its raids against militants and KNF members since 9 October. The last incident of gunfight took place on Saturday. This is first instance of recovery of a KNF member’s body after the gunfights.

Meanwhile, the incidents of shootout have left the area deserted. Local representatives said five paras (localities)—Happyhill para, Bastlangpara, Arthapara, Munnuampara and Mualpipara-- of Bom and Marma people have been deserted.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Ruma police station officer-in-charge (OC) Md Alamgir Hossain said KNF members launched an attacked on a law enforcement team patrolling in Bastlangpara and Arthapara on Saturday mid-day. As the law enforcement members retaliated, the attackers fled.

A body wearing KNF uniform was recovered from Arthapara area during a search operation on Sunday morning, the OC said adding, a double barrel gun and 70 rounds of bullet were also recovered next to the body.

Arthapara, which falls under Paiundu union parishand, is 12km from in Ruma upazila town.

Wishing anonymity, several UP members said gun battle had been underway between security forces and KNF members in Happyhillpara, Bastlangpara, Arthapara, Munnuampara and Mualpipara for the past couple of days.

A team of KNF members attacked on a patrolling team of security forces in Bastlangpara and Arthapara on Saturday. As the security forces retaliated, the attackers fled. The firing left a KNF member dead. As panic griped the area, locals fled home and took shelter in safe place.

Security force Bandarban region and 69 Infantry Bridge headquarters in a press release said Bawm and Marma people were forced to desert the localities because of KNF’s torture and repression. These people are now staying at the building of Marma Welfare Association in Ruma and army are providing them with foods, winter cloths, treatment and necessary medicines.

Hlathowaching from Mualpipara, 8 kilometre away from Ruma, took shelter in the Marma Welfare Association building. Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said 71 Bawm and 51 Marma families live in Mualpipara and everyone has left the area.

He said the Marma people came to the upazila town, but he did not know where the Bawm people took shelter.

Several people from Mualpipara said a KNF team has been staying there for a month, causing a panic among people living in Mualpipara and neighbouring localities. Nobody joined work because of fear and if bushes are not cleared for Jhum cultivation now, it would not be possible to cultivate corps anymore and people will have to starve after several months.

Armed group KNF started its activities in remote area, dominated by Bawm community, of Rowangchhari and Ruma upazilas in 2020. The group claimed they are working for the rights of Bawm, Mru, Pankhos, Lusai, Kheang and Khumi people.

On 12 January, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) legal and media wing director Khandaker Al Moin in a press conference said militant group Jama'atul Ansar Fil Hindal Sharqiya made a deal with KNF in 2021 to train up the members of the militant group. Since then, with the money from the militant group, the strength of KNF started increasing.

Currently, KNF has about 150 members.

Security and law enforcement agencies have been conducting operation against the militant group and the KNF since 9 October last year and 12-14 KNF members have been arrested so far, he added