Kwe Shwe Hla, chairman of Bandarban Hill District Council, has allegedly tricked around 20 Mro families into giving their jhum land in Lama upazila's Dola Para for tourism.
Though he promised to build a garden where the Mro people would work, the 20-acre land was handed to an organisation for tourism, leaving the community irked.
"The chairman even appointed me as a caretaker to the garden. We were promised that we will be given government jobs if the garden is built here. All of these were lies," Mendon Mro, son of Ruiton Mro, karbari (village chief) of Dola Para, told The Daily Star.
Singpas Mro, headman of Lulaing mouza under which Dola Para falls, said, "The chairman has betrayed us. Initially, he planted some fruit trees. But it was nothing but an eyewash. He later handed the land to an organisation for tourism purposes."
Some 20 Mro families was using this land, in the Naitong hilly area, for jhum cultivation. After losing this land, they moved to nearby areas, said Singpas. "We want our land back," he said.
Meanwhile, the chairman on Sunday addressed a press conference where he claimed that the land was taken following discussion with the Mro community. In 2016, the land was leased out to an organisation for 40 years, he added.
"As no one lived in the area, no Mro people will be affected for this," said the chairman, reading out a reading statement.
He, however, admitted that when the district council applied to the Ministry of Chattogram Hill Tracts Affairs, seeking ownership of the land, their application was rejected for failing to meet "required conditions."
This correspondent repeatedly tried to talk to the chairman over phone for comments on the allegation against him, but he did not pick up the calls.
Contacted, the district council's member, Kyaw Sa Prue Marma, said the land was taken for tourism, not for gardening.