Narinjara News

Indiscriminate export of rice causes hunger in western Burma

1 October 2003The scarcity of rice has forced the officials to sell rice at a subsidized price in western Burma.

To ease a famine-like condition in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in western Burma, the Burmese junta officials have been forced to sell rice at a subsidized price.  “We get half a kilo of low-grade rice for each member of the family a day at a rate of kyat 150 a kilo, while the price in the market for the same is kyat 300,” said a nurse from Sittwe on phone.

From early in the morning the people would be seen lining up for buying the share of the rice.  “Though we are receiving the rice at a controlled price the people living in the rural areas are not as lucky.  There is no rationing system or subsidized selling in the villages and small townships far away,” she further said.

Many people allege that the ruling junta is squarely to be blamed for the situation: the junta imposed a ban on transportation of rice from Burma proper to Rakhine State.  The price of a 50-kilo bag of rice is now selling at kyat 15,000 there, which is more than the double of the regular price.

“Though Rakhine State is the third largest producer of rice among the fourteen states and divisions of Burma, for the last couple of years we have been facing the same problem of food scarcity and a silent famine in the state due to the wholesale and forced purchase of rice by the central military regime and indiscriminate smuggling out of the rice by the members of the military intelligence, army, navy and the top junta officials in connivance with the local big smugglers,” a prominent political leader of the Arakan League for Democracy said.

For the last one month the military regime has allowed a private company, Innbawkwa, to bring rice from Burma proper for reselling in Rakhine State.  “Every day more than ten thousand bags of rice are carried only by Innbawkwa Company,” said a company source.

On the other hand the western border township of Maungdaw is also facing an acute crisis of rice.  Every day thousands of bags of rice are smuggled into the township from Bangladesh across the Naaf River that serves as the common border between the two countries, according to our local source.  #