The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) has accused the Arakan Army (AA) of forcing villagers to provide them with rice in Paletwa Township, southern Chin State, even as locals are facing food shortages.
According to an October 20 CHRO statement, the AA collected rice since mid-September from five villages in Ngar Shar village tract, five hours from Paletwa town: the 109-household Nga Shar, 74-household Nombu Nge, 56-household Kyaung Chuang, 30-household Nombu Gyi, and the 4-household Kyaung Chaung.
CHRO reported that each household was forced to give the soldiers two bags of rice, and 10 villagers from each community were forced to carry the rice to the AA’s camp.
“The AA has collected rice from villages since September 14. The AA paid 10,000 kyats (US$7.75) per rice bag. Villagers had to take the rice bags to near Nga Thein village. The AA gave 2,000 kyats ($1.50) per rice bag as a transportation fee. They have collected rice from all villages between Nga Shar village and Yay Chan Tha village,” an unidentified local man is quoted as saying in CHRO’s report.
More than 200 villages in Paletwa Township have run out of food due to the Burma Army closure of all water and land routes into the area for “security reasons,” thereby blocking the transport of goods.
CHRO field director Salai Tera condemned the forced collection of rice from locals who are living with extreme difficulties.
“This is a serious human rights violation. Local people have run out of food. They have forcibly collected rice from local people by using their weapons,” he told Khonumthung News, referring to the AA. “We have strongly condemned what they have done to the local people.”
Mai Nang Wai, who works with the Relief and Rehabilitation Committee for Chin IDPs (RRCCI), said that the AA has also forcibly collected rice from other areas in Paletwa as well.
“They have collected rice from four or five village tracts between Tawng Pyo and Train Ai villages. People didn’t get any payment from them. I think some people may have gotten a small amount of payment,” she said, adding that she had heard similar figures regarding a 1,000 to 2,000 kyat transportation fee for each bag of rice, but remained unconvinced that everyone had received it.
Paletwa locals told Khonumthung News that if they want to buy rice, they need a letter from their village headman to present to the General Administration Department office, which then allocates the rice quota.
The current price of a bag of rice in Paletwa is 75,000 kyat ($58).