The Ripple Effects of Arakan Violence: Chin State’s Paletwa Villagers Face Food Shortages
23 July 2012: Local residents in Chin State’s Paletwa Township, bordering Arakan State, are facing food shortages following recent communal violence in the southern State, which have affected markets in the area.
Sales of local products such as mangoes, pineapples, oranges, bananas, bamboos and other vegetables have sharply fallen as customers from Arakan State have stopped coming to the southern Chin township since the riots.
Trade with Arakan State is the only access for business for residents of Paletwa areas as the Township has no transportation access to the rest of Chin State, largely due to long neglect of the areas by successive central Burmese governments.
“We have very few buyers. Knowing the situation, they offer us bad prices. Our products have gone rotten and we are now facing such difficulties. Some of our villagers even stopped farming in despair,” added a Chin farmer.
The situation has also been worsened by the rising price of rice in Paletwa Township, a region earmarked in WFP’s March report as a concern due to crop losses and lower yields from cultivation.
A Christian pastor from Cheing Seaung village said he managed to buy one bag of rice which lasted only three days as it was shared among his neighbours, adding: “The people are in a very difficult situation and they are struggling for a day-to-day survival.”
Villages along the Arakan-Chin border in Paletwa Township, still recovering from the effects of mautam food crisis, are hard hit by the ‘aggravating’ situation of food scarcity.
Recently, staff members of IRC (International Rescue Committee), an international non-government organization, made a visit to the village, only providing medical assistance according to the Chin pastor as quoted by the Khumi Media Group.
There are only three international humanitarian agencies, namely UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), IRC and Action Contre La Faim (Action Against Hunger) working in the sectors of agriculture, livelihood, health and food, according to OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
During its food security assessment conducted in August 2010 across Chin State, the UN agency, WFP (World Food Programme) admitted Paletwa Township was not assessed due to ‘inaccessibility’.
The population of Paletwa Township is estimated to be more than 85,000, with over 400 villages.
Reporting by Peter Lu with Thawng Zel Thang