Narinjara news

Food Scarcity in Burma: oh yes, Rice from Bangladesh!

Dhaka, 15 September:  After chemical fertilizers, rice is the new hot item added to the list of commodities smuggled into Burma, reported the vernacular daily Prothom Alo in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The rice from Bangladesh is being smuggled through 18 points of the porous Bangla  Burma border, it said.  The recent price hike of rice in Rakhine (Arakan) State in the western part of Burma has spurred the smuggling of Bangladeshi rice.

In the last three days the Bangladesh Rifles and Police seized 200 bags of rice.  The incident prompted a chase and counter chase between the smugglers and the law enforcement agents.

According to various sources in the border, the recent imposition of restrictions in the supply of rice in the western state of Burma has created a crisis, causing the price of a little over a kilo of rice to go up to 330 to 350 kyat.

Out of the 18 points much of the rice is being smuggled through Rahmater-bil, Thaingkhali and Palongkhali areas which are controlled by the local Huq Bahini terrorist gang.  On inquiry it was further found that this gang was also previously engaged in smuggling fertilizer.  Local politicians of the ruling party, BNP, and youth leaders allege that the same Huq Bahini by misusing the name of the ruling party smuggle out fertilizer, rice and diesel fuel and smuggle hard drugs from Burma into Bangladesh.  The rest of the points are controlled by two other crime gangs.   Every day an estimated more than one thousand bags of rice are smuggled out to Burma in this way.

Last Thursday, the BDR confiscated 55 bags of rice in Ukhia and 41 bags at Balukhali border points.  Besides, the BDR and police in Teknaf on the Bangladesh side of the Naaf River that divides the two countries confiscated 90 bags of rice on Thursday and Friday last.

An official of the Township Peace and Development Council at Maungdaw on condition of anonymity told Narinjara that the greedy Burmese junta’s  indiscriminate export and smuggling out of rice in collusion with a section of the corrupt Burmese Armed Forces of Rakhine State in western part of Burma are responsible for the present rice crisis in the state.  “At present a widespread famine-like situation is already prevailing in the state.  The Burmese junta may not be able to avert a widespread famine this season.  People are already facing the threat of starvation and in many areas of the rural Rakhine State villagers are now foraging wild tracts of land nearby for whatever is available for feeding their hungry mouths,” he said. 

Hordes of emaciated women, old people and children in the villages of the state only testify to the distressing reality, our correspondent said.  “Because of lack of communication and junta-imposed censorship on free flow of media, the number of deaths due to famine, and the scale of people’s suffering will never come to the light“, a veteran lawyer in the township commented while expressing his deep concerns for a looming human disaster.  #