Famine in Pockets Of Northern Arakan In Burma
Maungdaw, June 10th: The price of rice has marked an
unusual rise in the markets of Northern
in recent weeks, causing a famine-like situation. The rice is now selling at
kyat 340 a kilo at Maungdaw, the border town in
northern Arakan, while the government wages for a labourer
is fixed at kyat 100 a day.
On May 16th, the village councillors under the Nasaka Area
Two at Aungju village under Maungdaw
township attended an emergency meeting because there
has been famine in many pockets of the township. At the meeting the councillors dealt on the severe shortage of rice, the
staple food of Burma
in detail and demanded for permission from the Nasaka
Border Security and Immigration authority to carry rice from other areas of Arakan
State where the price of rice is
comparatively low, said a village councillor who
attended the meeting.
The meeting was held at a time when the Nasaka border
security forces who control most of the administrative and police duty in the
area were being criticized and blamed for the scarcity of rice as they had been
entrusted with the rice collection drive and ‘controlling’ of rice trade in the
area that meant allowing rice smuggling to those who bribed them.
When our correspondent visited Aungju village tract
he found a lot of emaciated people who told him about the scarcity of rice due
to forced collection of rice from them which left practically nothing for the
survival of the villagers. The ban on rice trade by the general public also
worsened the situation the villagers said.
Since the beginning of the present rice season (September October) last year,
the Burmese junta has imposed ban on carrying, sales and milling of rice in Arakan
State. Though the ban has been
imposed on the general traders and growers of rice, large numbers of defence
personnel including the military have been engaged in buying, carrying, milling
and smuggling of rice across the border to Bangladesh.
Besides that, the junta have also forcefully collected
large amounts of rice from the farmers of Arakan
State, without taking into
consideration of the local needs, and leaving very little for the consumption
of the general people of Arakan.
“The present famine-like situation all over Arakan
State is a deliberate creation of
the present Burmese junta, SPDC,” said an unnamed retired government official.
“The military junta procured so much rice from the farmers of Arakan
State that they left practically
nothing for the survival of the Arakanese people. The present famine as you can
see in many pockets of rural Arakan is not because there was a crop failure due
to natural disasters but because the ruling Burmese junta has deliberately
created it through their administration at various levels.” The government
official who worked in the Trade Corporation One that was in charge of rice
procurement continued that the defence personnel in charge of procuring rice
forcefully collected rice from the villagers without taking into consideration
of the local requirement and humanitarian factors, forcing the farmers whose
crop failed to buy rice in the open market and ‘pay up’ the quota of rice to
the rice collectors.
The village councillors who attended the meeting said
that though they had appealed for the permission to carry rice to the
famine-affected areas, they did not think that the junta would permit them
either to carry rice to their areas or provide any emergency food supplies for
the famine affected villagers.
A well-known rice trader in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan
State while contacted by phone
said, “The sudden rise in rice price even before the coming of the rainy season
this year is a sign of imminent large-scale shortage of rice, which may develop
into a full-scale man-made famine-like situation in Arakan. Though famine has
crept into a few pockets in the northern Arakan
State, and the price of rice has
already recorded a sharp hike in the Sittwe market,
too, the ruling Burmese junta have not yet taken any
steps to distribute emergency food supply to the affected areas or bring rice
proper to meet the deficiency.” The trader told on phone that the price of rice
in Burma proper
is also unsteady now so that there is an uncertainty about the availability of
rice in the open market to meet the need for the entire Arakan
State this year. #