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 Saturday, 4 January, 2003, 10:40 GMT
Bangladesh: Has the security clampdown gone too far?
Bangladesh police
The Bangladesh government's military operation against crime has intensified following recent bomb attacks on cinemas in the northern town of Mymensingh.

In addition to "Operation Cleanheart" which was launched in mid-October, the Dhaka government now appears to be taking a hard line against both the opposition and critical voices in the media.

The government suggests it wants to make Bangladesh secure in the face of international terrorism.

But alarm is spreading as a number of civilians, including journalists, university lecturers, and human rights activists have been detained.

Some have been held without charge, others refused bail.

So has the security clampdown gone too far? Does the level of threat justify drastic measures, or are basic human rights and the rule of law being eroded?

This debate is now closed. The next South Asia Debate will be in January. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Security clamp down may be good in countries where those enforcing it are fair and just but in Bangladesh a woman cannot report rape to the police for fear that they will rape her; so how can such a police and army do any good for this country?
Fauzia Begum, Bangladesh

Any kind of drastic measures will trespass basic human rights. I don't think it's a discreet decision.
John Long, Taiwan

Not the best solution but a good one nonetheless

Qazi Hoq, Bangladesh, USA
Living in Bangladesh most of my life, I think I can say that what is being done is probably not the best solution but a good one nonetheless. After the army was deployed, I was hoping that they would stay neutral (not saying that they are not). In a country like Bangladesh, it is going to be very hard to get rid of crime. The politicians (most of them) are/were criminals and therefore they use criminals as their bodyguards and also use them to do their dirty work.
Qazi Hoq, Bangladesh, USA

Generally most people are very happy with the current situation in Bangladesh. Only the criminals themselves and those who do not want to see Bangladesh as a peaceful country are against this clean-up operation. However, the question in most people's mind is once the army's involvement in the crackdown on crime ends, what will happen next?
A. Rob, UK

I don't believe that either party is good for the nation

Faisal Khan, Canada
About 2 weeks ago, I came back from Bangladesh after 1 month's vacation. I don't believe that either party is good for the nation. Both are corrupt and uneducated. On the other hand, Bangladesh is probably enjoying, for the first time, a normal life where people go out without feeling afraid.
Faisal Khan, Canada

The army deployment has brought a sigh of relief among peaceful commoners. They were simply out of their wits and intolerably insecure due to ever-escalating crime and terrorism. While deaths in custody are regrettable and cannot be condoned, there is no doubt that army action has resulted in precipitous drop in the crime level.
Omar Khasru, Bangladesh

The rest of the world should respect our people, our country, our law and our inherited socio-economic structure. No one has the right to dictate our life style the way we choose to live.
Jahangir Alam,

Security clampdown leads to human rights abuse

Jane Murphy, UK
I lived in Bangladesh for two years and grew to understand what it is like to live in fear and fight for survival. Security clampdown leads to human rights abuse. It hurts the weak and leads to more instability and corruption. I am devastated by the number of my friends who have been subjected to appalling treatment at the hands of the police and army since the new government came to power.
Jane Murphy, UK

I personally welcome the effort made by the present government to call the military to assist with law and order. The situation was getting totally uncontrollable with the rise in crime and corruption. The civil authorities were incapable of handling such situations and some of the roots of corruption start within them. I do recognise that in a clampdown of such scale it is inevitable that some basic human rights are eroded. However what I can gather from reading the Bangladeshi press and talking to some people, overall the general population of the country feels much more secure and comfortable in the present situation than ever before.
Kabir, UK

I'm no expert on Bangladesh, but the detention of academics and human rights workers in the name of security is all to chillingly familiar. Of course with the rise of international terrorism governments feel compelled to increase security measures, but this almost inevitable leads to an erosion of basic human rights - whether due simply to paranoia and over-enthusiastic enforcement of such security measures, or a cynical attempt by governments to take advantage of the situation in order to clamp down on their critics. Which is it in the case of Bangladesh?
Rita, UK

As an outsider who has spent some time recently in Bangladesh, it seems to me that both major political parties use any excuse to crack down on opposition, blaming any negative situation on the previous regime and reversing policies seemingly out of spite. Until there is some responsibility for the past and, more importantly, a genuine interest in creating a better environment for the ordinary person irrespective of political affiliation, there will be no truly independent police or military force nor any truly impartial judiciary.
Camilla Leigh, UK

Bangladeshi authorities should use reasonable force and maximum restraint

Igonikon Jack, USA
A government or system that uses the criminal justice system to suppress the opposition, muzzle critics, detain innocent people indefinitely and incommunicado, no matter how high the crime rate, is tyrannical and unacceptable. Extremism and lawlessness in pursuit of law and order is as bad as tolerance and connivance in the presence of corruption and decadence, if not worse. Bangladeshi authorities should use reasonable force and maximum restraint in exercising their sovereign and constitutional rights, without which charges of human-rights violations can gain some credence. Also, fighting crime should go along with the elimination or reduction of causes of crime: social injustice, poverty and frustration.
Igonikon Jack, USA

For the first time in years, crime in Bangladesh has significantly lowered. If anything the military should stay in the city longer
Eyno, Toronto

I am not surprised at the government's decision to get the military involved in cleaning up crime in the country

Mahboob Hoque, Turkey
I visit Bangladesh once every two months and am not surprised at the government's decision to get the military involved in cleaning up crime in the country. Upon every visit I hear and have even witnessed the alarming levels of crime in Bangladeshi society. Unfortunately though, the instigators and financiers of such acts are the rich and influential, including ruling party members of whatever political persuasion and the police themselves. It is common public knowledge amongst all Bangladeshi society, from the rickshaw puller to the Prime Minister, who controls and payrolls these criminals. Unless these people are brought to trial it is only window dressing that is going on.
Mahboob Hoque, Turkey

There is no question that basic human rights and the rule of law have been non-existent ever since the present government came to power. The recent army crackdown is just a natural progression of affairs. The arrest of the foreign journalists brought the attention of the world to this situation for a brief moment. Unfortunately, with their release, things will continue in the same direction.
I. Ahmed, USA

Have you been to Bangladesh lately? Bringing the Army to aid civil authorities was probably the only thing left on the table. The previous government was not only corrupt but they stood by and let the criminals and terrorists run the country. Law and order was extremely terrible. At least this government is keeping its promise of at least trying to restore law and order.
Khairul, USA

The law and order situation went downhill and something had to be done. Existing non-military law enforcement is corrupt and ineffective. Military option was the last and only straw. However, it would be great if the military could be objective (and not be biased towards any party) in resolving the crime related issues...
Caesar, USA

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10 Dec 02 | South Asia
09 Dec 02 | South Asia
01 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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