|Arakan relief team medic treating sick villager|
|Children helping to prepare food|
|Injured child receiving treatment from FBR medic|
|Relief team giving medical treatment to IDPs|
|IDP children gather after Good Life Club program|
Thousands of displaced people in Arakan and Chin States are suffering from both Burma Army oppression and rats devouring their rice harvest.
Villagers in the area of Paletwa Township, western Burma, have been forced into hiding by the Burma Army and are suffering the effects of advanced malnutrition, as reported by a Free Burma Rangers team on mission in that area.
Note: Paletwa Township is considered as part of Chin State but is an area populated by Arakan, Chin and other ethnic groups. Some Arakan also also consider it as part of Arakan State.
The Burma Army is demanding that villagers porter supplies for them, build new camps and provide food and jatropha seeds for Burma Army troops; this, in addition to banning farmers from staying at their farm huts, makes it impossible for the villagers to farm their own crops. As a result, at least four thousand villagers in this area have been forced to flee to the jungle where unstable and harsh living conditions, as well as malnutrition, have exacerbated the instances of diseases such as dysentery, beriberi, pneumonia and malaria.
This year, Paletwa Township, which is some 20 miles from the west coast of Burma and 70 miles west of Pye, has seen an increase of Burma Army troop concentration, from one to three battalions. LIB 55 is based in Than Dwe Township and commanded by Major Ne Lunn Aung. Major Aye Naing is in command of LIB 550, and LIB 289 is commanded by Major Myo Min Aung.
Villagers in the vicinity of Burma Army camps face constant threat from troops. Captain Tan Htun Naing, commander of Dowechawnwa village camp where LIB 550 is based, shot two pigs and took them without compensating the owner. The same Burma Army Captain brutally beat Khun Oo, a Khumi (ethnic group) Christian villager, and forced him to pay a 5,000 kyat fine. (name changed to protect the villager)
The crisis caused by the Burma Army has been made worse by a plague of rats which continues to devour the rice paddies of the villagers. Every 50 years or so bamboo plants flower, creating an increase in available fodder for rats which in turn results in dramatic increases in the rat population. When the bamboo flowering cycle is over, the newly-increased rat population must find forage elsewhere and moves on to any available food source, decimating villagers’ crops and sometimes even gnawing into bamboo houses. Villagers estimate that at least 40% of their rice crop has been eaten by the rats. The price of rice has increased by about 75% since June this year causing many to try and live off jungle potatoes. The destruction of the rice crop also has an effect on education as many teachers are paid in kind. It is reported that thousands of children have left schools because villagers are unable to pay the teachers.
The Burma Army actively attempts to block all humanitarian assistance and to capture or kill anyone providing relief to those the Burma Army is attacking. The FBR Arakan team was able to treat more than 100 patients and record widespread human rights abuses such as forced labour, extortion, illegal detention, and arbitrary violence. They were also able to give some food and money to the IDPs as well as pray with them. A team member said: “We cannot solve this crisis without international help. We need food supplies, the reopening of schools, health care and emergency relief. I would like to request international communities to love these people and to cooperate with us for their present and future. The IDPs, refugees and villagers are really in a bad and alarming situation.”
(all names changed to protect the villagers)
1. Seven acres of gardens belonging to Oo A, from Theda Village, Poonayum Township, Arakan State of Burma were annexed by authorities of the Jail Department on 27 October, 2008.
2. A garden of mango trees with 3,000 trees belonging to Oo B, 60, from Theda Village, Poonayun Township, Arakan State of Burma was annexed by authorities of the Jail Department on 27 October. The current value of garden is 700,000 kyat.
3. Three and a half acres of garden (mango, banana, limes and other trees) belonging to Oo C, 40, from Theda Village, Poonayum Township, Arakan State of Burma was annexed by authorities of the Jail Department on 15 October, 2008.
4. The garden of Oo C, 50, also from Theda Village, and his wife, Daw A, was annexed by authorities of the Jail Department on 13 October, 2008.
6. Four acres of mango trees belonging to Oo D and Daw B from Theda Village, Poonayun Township, Arakan State of Burma was annexed by authorities of the Jail Department on 12 October, 2008.
7. Ma A and Oo E, from Theda Village, Poonayun Township, Arakan State of Burma had their garden of 2,400 mango trees annexed by authorities of the Jail Department.
8. Oo F, Theda Village, Poonayun Township, had his mango trees garden annexed by authorities of the Jail Department on 15/10/2008.
9. Oo G is a farmer whose cow grazed near the rubber garden of the Jail Department and he was subsequently fined 5,000 kyat by authorities of Jail Department on 5, October, 2008.
10. Oo Shwe San is President of Kyauk Sarike Village, Mrauk Oo Township, Arakan State of Burma. He is requiring visitors to give 3,000 kyat to him to purchase a “permission ticket” to visit his village. When visitors asked him about it, he responded that he had bought his way into the president’s position and needed to pay himself back that money he spent.
11. Seven hundred acres of farmland belonging to Cherrypram villagers, Mrauk Oo Township, Arakan State of Burma was annexed by Burma Army LIB 540 on 13 October, 2008. Additionally, private farm owners are required to give the Burma Army 100 baskets for every acre of farmland. Two other villages, Latesampram Village and Tharpraykam Village also had 700 acres of farmland annexed by Burma Army LIB 540, on 15 October 2008.