Monday, 06 April 2020

Buthidaung, Arakan State: The Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) members of Buthidaung Township on the orders of Maungdaw District Peace and Development Council (DPDC)  confiscated about 700 acres of farmland from Arakanese Rohingya farmers of Nyaung Chaung Village Tract of Buthidaung township  for settling Natala (model) villages from January third week, said a land owner of the locality. 

A total of about 180 Natala families will be brought over soon from Burma proper to Buthidaung Township by the authorities to settle in northern Arakan.  The authorities have been making houses for model villagers forcing Arakanese Rohingya villagers to work on the construction after confiscating their lands. But, the authorities provide daily wages to the workers in construction of houses for Natala villagers.

Most farmers in Nyaung Chaung Village tract of Buthidaung Township have become landless after the seizure of land for Natala villagers. They will have no lands to grow paddy or vegetables next year, said a local youth. 

Before confiscation of land for new settlements for Natala villagers, the Western Command Commander General Thaung Aye visited northern Arakan to study the situation in Arakan and to choose sites for new Natala villages. Local Arakanese Rohingya villagers said that the visit of Western Command Commander to north Arakan was a curse for the Arakanese Rohingya people. 

A farmer of Nyaun Chaung village in Buthidaung Township said, “I have 10 acres of land and it was confiscated by the authorities for Natala villagers. I have 12 family-members. Now, I am old. How do I maintain my family?”

Another village elder who did not want to be named said,” It is a deliberate plan of action against the Arakanese Rohingya people. Or else it is not necessary to bring Natala villagers to northern Arakan.”

“If the number of Natala villages goes up in our area, the harassment will also increase against the local Arakanese Rohingya people,” said a local schoolteacher.

“Prior to the 2010 election, the junta will do whatever they want against the Arakanese Rohingya community,” said a trader from Buthidaung.

The junta’s policy of setting up Natala (model) villages in northern Arakan calling Burmans from Burma proper has resulted in seizure of lands and forced labor from among the Arakanese Rohingya community.

Prior to 1992, some model villages were built in northern Arakan.  But, the construction of model villages reportedly intensified after the formation of Nasaka (Burma's Border Security force) in 1992, said a local businessman on condition of anonymity. 

The junta set up Nasaka on September 1, 1992, under the supervision of former Military Intelligence Services (MIS) head Lt. General Khin Nyunt to systematically persecute Arakanese Rohingyas. 

The authorities know that 85 per cent of Arakanese Rohingya are farmers. So, they have been confiscating Arakanese Rohingyas' farm lands for Natala villagers, for military camps and for maintaining their families and business ventures, for rubber plantations, for growing paddy, vegetables and physic nuts to cripple them economically, the businessman added.

The confiscation of land has pushed Arakanese Rohingya farmers into a landless state. If the seizure of land from Arakanese Rohingya villagers continues all the Arakanese Rohingya farmers will become landless before long.

Most Natala villagers are poor Burmans, retired civil servants and were lured by the authorities and forcefully brought to Arakan State.

The Natala villagers will be new comers in the first phase in 2010 in north Arakan, said another local elder.