Starvation Stalks In Chin State As Burma’s Regime Ignores
‘Government-neglected’ starvation, locally known as Mautam, has been ravaging Chin State, sparking fears that the affected areas could be immensely increased unless more relief aids are promptly delivered, sources revealed.
Burma’s regime has been, for the second time after the Nargis cyclone, severely condemned for denying the existence of famine in the country and ‘turning a blind eye’ to the suffering of its own peoples while governments of India and Bangladesh have at least prepared, although reported inadequate, for the present bamboo-flowering cycle which occurs every fifty years.
A recent report by Project Maje stated: “As the swarming rats of the Mautam devour the people’s food, so do the generals ruling Burma relentlessly steal, extort, plunder and confiscate, leaving nothing. Unless military rule is ended, Burma will continue to be a disaster zone and the present hunger belts will stretch from border to border.”
“As was apparent in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, when the regime of Burma will not facilitate relief aid, grassroots groups must take action as best they can. Such a do-it-yourself equivalent of a civil society occurs without the regime’s approval and often with its hindrance but it can be powerfully effective”, the report continued.
Efforts have been made but no way near ‘enough’ by Chin organisations, churches and individuals yet with little help from international communities. Some locally formed organisations including Mizoram-based Chin Famine Emergency Relief Committee (CFERC), Burma-based Maraland Social Welfare and Development Committee (MSWDC) and Country Agency For Rural Development Myanmar (CAD) have also been actively working in response to the current situation.
Project Maje’s report suggested: “Relief aid including emergency rice and seed stocks, with rat-proof containers, would be given directly to the hunger belt of Chin State by Burma’s regime (which is wealthy, with a reported US$150 million a month income from its petroleum joint ventures with France’s Total, the United States’ Chevron, South Korea’s Daewoo, China, Thailand and India) or the United Nations and other international donors.”
Rev. Dr. C. Duh Kam, Executive Minister of Chin Baptist Fellowship of America (CBFA) strongly called on Chin individuals worldwide to take a ‘life-saving aid’ action, saying: “If each one of us puts just our half-day wages aside, our fellow Chins can survive. Let us waste our time no more but take some food out of our own mouths for our nation now.”
The bamboo flowering and rat infestation cycle has in the past lasted for about three years, until the rats run out of food and their populations return to normal. According to The Times of India, “the last flowering in Mizoram, in 1958-59, caused a famine that killed between 10,000 and 15,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousands of livelihoods.”
An increasing number of Chin victims are migrating, leaving their native places towards the Indian-Burma border in search of food and security. “If this famine continues for the next three years, our land will be completely deserted and empty. We need your immediate actions,” said Rev. M. Thawng Kam, General Secretary of Zomi Baptist Convention.
Perhaps most importantly, as has been stated in other Project Maje reports, a complete end to the abuse of ethnic nationality people of Burma must be an unwavering condition of any political process in Burma. Human rights violations, exploitation and degradation of the environment for commercial purposes have made the Chin people particularly vulnerable to the current Mautam and cut off from the relief aid which is reaching those affected by the bamboo/rat cycle in the neighboring countries, the report said.
Locally known as Mautam, the famine is caused by a massive influx of rats following the blossoming bamboos which produce avocado-like fruits. After feeding on the bamboo fruits/seeds, the rats begin to reproduce in an accelerated birth surge. The rodents often grow to particularly large sizes and can gnaw through wood floors, walls, storage containers and granaries. Swarms of these nocturnal rats quietly invade farms and villages to devour crops, stored rice and others such as potatoes, maize, chilli and sesame.
Van Biak Thang
04 August, 2008