Narinjara news


Burmese Muslims flee western Burma to escape food scarcity
caused by forced collection of rice and travel restrictions 

Maungdaw, 29 June 02:
  At least thirty Burmese Muslims including women and children from Arakan State in the western part of Burma have so far left their ancestral settlement for want of food in the area caused by the oppressive measures of the ruling State Peace and Development Council junta, according to a councillor in the area. 

The artificial food crisis has been caused by the practice of forcefully buying of large quantities of rice from the farmers without leaving behind enough for their consumption by the name of “rice collection drive.”  The village in the southern part of Maungdaw Township, close to the Naaf River that serves as the common border between Bangladesh and Burma, is home to mostly Muslim farmers.   

“In the last rice season, the amount of rice procurement by the SPDC junta was far more than that of the year before.  As a result very little was left for the farmers’ consumption.  Besides, the price paid for the rice was also between 25% and 35% of the prevailing price,” a rice grower from the village said.

Another problem for the villagers is the scarcity of work, as they are not allowed to travel to even nearby villages for work unless a written permission from the junta officials of at least three departments called “travel permit” is obtained by bribe.

“There are more women than men in the village at present, and we are scratching everywhere for a grain of rice to eat.  But due to travel restrictions we are confined in large prison-like villages from where we cannot go out even to do menial labour in the nearby villages or town,” an elderly woman in the village told our correspondent.  “Our children are just like ‘bamboo sticks’ (skinny) without adequate nourishment, and at least twelve children and some grown-ups have died because of diarrhoea and fever caused by lack of nutrition,” the woman added.

Talking to a village elder there he said, “Crossing the border won’t give us any solution since the neighbouring country is not willing to take us.  Though we are subjected to the worst human rights violations, not even being allowed to earn our own livelihood, we won’t be considered as political victims.  Even in Bangladesh, there is a rising tendency to accuse the Muslims who fled from here to consider as ‘economic migrants’, which we are not.  We want to live honourably enjoying the full rights of a Burmese citizen but the SPDC won’t allow us though we have been living in this country for hundreds of years.”

 Though SPDC junta do not recognize the citizenship of the Muslims of this part of Arakan State, they will again come to collect rice forcefully this coming rainy season too when rice is grown all over the land.   Although no one is pretty sure or willing to tell about where those people have left,  “without anywhere to move within Burma they must have crossed the border into Bangladesh” said an official in Maungdaw.   #