Army Rice Restrictions Add to Suffering of Paletwa Villagers, IDPs

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Residents of Chin State’s Paletwa Township are struggling to meet their basic food needs as Burma’s government army, the Tatmadaw, tightens its control over the amount of rice that it will allow into the conflict-hit region.

Citing “security reasons”, the Tatmadaw has limited each village-tract in the township to just 50 bags of rice – far less than the minimum amount required to sustain the local population.

The problem is especially severe in remote areas, local sources told Khonumthung News.

“There are five villages in the village-tract, so 50 bags is not nearly enough for all of them,” said Huay Lod, the headman of Meezar, one of the affected villages.

Meezar village-tract is home to more than 2,000 permanent residents living in 600 households, and is also host to an unspecified number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing recent clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA).

“Because of the IDPs in Meezar, we are allowed to buy a total of 70 bags,” said Huay Lod, adding that this was still not enough to meet the basic needs of people living there.

Another problem, he said, was that bureaucratic hurdles make it time-consuming to purchase the rice.

“We need official permits and other documentation before we can buy the rice. We have to spend a day in Paletwa to get permission from the army to go to the GAD [General Administration Department] office in Kyauktaw, in Rakhine State. Then we need to get a letter from the GAD officer before we can buy the rice. The whole process takes at least two days.”

According to local people, the shortfall in the amount of rice now allowed into the area is significant.

“Meezar village-tract used to buy 400 rice bags per month, so 70 rice bags per month is not enough for us,” said one local resident.

The Tatmadaw has imposed restrictions on the transport of rice into Paletwa since early May, in an effort to cut food supplies for AA forces based in the township.

Fighting between the two sides has displaced tens of thousands of local villagers in Chin and Rakhine states since hostilities escalated earlier this year.

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