Mong Marma


Role: Indigenous Researcher at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australia Peoples, Southern Cross University
Active in Country: Asia-Pacific
DTP Alumnus: 18thAnnual Human Rights and Peoples Diplomacy Training Program 2008 Sydney and Canberra; Indigenous Peoples and Minority Rights program, Darwin 2009; Child Rights Workshop Brisbane 2020

“DTP deserves huge appreciation for its contribution in building the capacity of human rights community in Bangladesh and beyond.”

Mong Marma attended his first DTP program in 2008 with the 18th Annual Human Rights and Peoples' Diplomacy Training Program, held in Sydney and Canberra, Australia. The next year he joined DTP as an intern and participated in DTP's Indigenous Peoples and Minority Rights program in Darwin. He joined DTP again in February 2020 for its workshop focused on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Implementation and Reporting in Brisbane, Australia.

Mong comes from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh – a region affected by conflict since Bangladesh gained its independence in 1971. Its Indigenous peoples are seeking to maintain control over their lands, to protect their distinct cultures and ways of life and to exercise their right to self-determination. The conflict has caused tens of thousands of deaths and significantly endangered the human rights of indigenous peoples and further marginalised them politically and economically. A peace agreement signed in 1997 officially ended the conflict. The CHT Peace Accord promised Peace, security and development in the region and gave hope to indigenous people. Although the infrastructure in the region has improved in the CHT, many key provisions of the peace agreement have not yet been implemented. Urgent issues, such as the return of the land that was forcibly taken have still not been resolved. No progress has been seen on the pressing issues of the withdrawal of military camps and rehabilitation of settler Bengalese outside of CHT. It has been more than two decades now since the signing of the Accord, peace is still a distant hope while the security situation continues to worsen.

Mong was a young leader in his community and determined to advocate for the rights of his people, despite the dangers. He belongs to Marma community that is one of the major Indigenous communities in the CHT.

“The knowledge and skills I gained from DTP’s trainings were really very useful and I am glad that I was able to transfer some of that knowledge to a wide range of people through my work.”

Thanks to the determined efforts of local, national and international human rights associations, the awareness of human rights in CHT has improved significantly, not only at the international and institutional level but also at the grassroots level, says Mong. However, the human rights record of the state still needs to improve substantially, he stresses. Efforts to integrate the human rights agenda into policies and programmes and the raising awareness among the population in general are an important step in the right direction and give hope for progress. However, land for indigenous people in CHT is the source of their political, cultural and spiritual life. Without effective control over their land and territories, their improved social and political autonomy is meaningless.

"The network I established at DTP has been really useful in coordinating events, exchanging info and knowledge and building a stronger network."

After his training and internship at DTP, Mong worked with Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact in Thailand as a Human Rights Campaign and Policy Advocacy Officer, conducting advocacy and policy lobbying at national, regional, and international levels to advance the rights of Indigenous peoples in the Asia Pacific region.

Mong was selected by Peace Brigades International (PBI) to help protect human rights defenders at risk in post-conflict peace process in Nepal from 2011–2012. In Nepal, Mong has worked with human rights lawyers and activists on national and local level and helped at-risk human rights defenders to carry on their advocacy and legal work aftermath the Nepal’s civil war. Central to his work are issues focussing on the promotion and protection of human rights and social justice.

"DTP has not only enriched my knowledge and understanding about the international human rights laws and reporting mechanisms, but also contributed a lot in the development of my professional career."

After finishing his contract with PBI, he then joined Nonviolent Peaceforce - an international humanitarian organisation, to support the Mindanao peace process in the Philippines. In the capacity of an International Civilian Protection Monitor, mandated to monitor and report the compliance and non-compliance of the Ceasefire Agreement signed between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,h e made significant contribution in the sustenance of the peace process that eventually culminated in the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2014. 

After years of this contributing to the fight for indigenous people’s rights in Bangladesh, and in Asia, Mong was selected for a Rotary Peace Fellowship in 2015. His contribution for the promotion and protection of human rights and social justice beyond his community in Bangladesh also earned him a Young Alumnus Award (finalist) by Southern Cross University’s School of Law and Justice in 2017. 

Mong is currently pursuing his Doctoral Studies in Indigenous Philosophies at Southern Cross University in Australia and is studying the Justice system of the Marma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh.


Profile written May 2020