Friday, 29 May 2020

Buthidaung, Arakan State: Natala or model villagers who were brought to northern Arakan from Burma proper by the ruling military junta are using new tactics to harass Arakanese Rohingya farmers of Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships, said a local trader who did not wish to be named.

Eighty five per cent Arakanese Rohingyas are farmers in north Arakan and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) authorities try to destroy their economic base. The SPDC uses the Natala villagers harass Arakanese Rohingya farmers after bringing them to north Arakan from Burma proper.

The Arakanese Rohingya farmers who have paddy farms or vegetable farms in nearby mountains far from their villages, keep their cattle in cowsheds at night guarded by night watchmen who  sleep in nearby farm tents, said a local farmer from Buthidaung township. 

Some of the Natala villagers from Maungdaw Township went to Buthidaung Township after crossing the Ngakin Tauk mountain-pass and joined other Natala villagers of Buthidaung Township and stole cattle from cowsheds of Ngakin Tauk village of Buthidaung Township while the night watchmen were sleeping. The Natala villagers went there with lethal weapons and also carried catapults with them. Sometimes, the Natala villagers also take the guards or night watchmen along with their cattle to the mouth of said mountain-pass after tying them. However, they are released when the Natala villagers enter the mountain-pass to cross it, said an owner of cattle of Buthidaung Township.   

After the theft some of the cattle owners went to Maungdaw Township after crossing the mountain-pass and lodged complaints against the Natala villagers to the Nasaka, but they did not pay any heed.  There are Nasaka camps on both mouths of the mountain-pass. The mountain-pass is 16-miles long which connects Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships. The mountain-pass was famous during the Second World War and was used by British forces.

How do the Natala villagers dare to steal cattle from Buthidaung to Maungdaw? It is not possible for the Natala villagers without collaboration of the Nasaka because they are the strangers and less in number. Earlier, the Burmese Army and Natala villagers robbed the Arakanese Rohingya villages while they crossed the mountain-pass, said a local elder. 

Another method, the Natala villagers have been using is to kill cattle of Arakanese Rohingya farmers. At night, they go to cowsheds of Arakanese Rohingya farmers with lethal weapons and put nails into cows’ heads by striking with a hammer or a put a kind of poisonous solution into the cow’s noses. The following day, the Natala villagers in disguise pretending to search for something in the forest go to nearby cowsheds and observe the situation of dead cows. If the cow is dead, they approach the owners to give them the dead cow for meat. Muslims are not allowed to eat dead cows’ meat. So, the Natala villagers easily got the dead cow. In this way, the Natala villagers destroy the Arakanese Rohingyas’ cattle which is very important for them to till their paddy or vegetable fields, said a village elder on condition of anonymity. 

Besides, the Natala villagers steal chicken, goats and vegetables from Arakanese Rohingya villagers. No action is taken against the culprits, if the matter is brought to the attention of authorities.

Arakan State is a densely populated and mountainous state and has no more arable land. Why did the ruling military junta bring Natala villagers to north Arakan?  It is clear that the SPDC brought them to depopulate the Arakanese Rohingya community and wants demographic changes in Arakan State. In addition, they wants to harass Arakanese Rohingya people through Natala villagers to flee from their mother land, said a politician from Maungdaw who declined to be named. 

The Natala villagers are lawless people, who do not hesitate to commit any crime against the Arakanese Rohingya people. It is an extreme burden for the Arakanese Rohingya community, said a local youth.