Narinjara news

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 Arakan State 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 from Burma 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. #