3 July 2020
Thousands of ethnic Chin Christians are enduring severe food shortages in Myanmar (Burma) because government forces have put up road blockades, cutting off food supplies to the area for the past six months.
The transport of rice, Myanmar’s staple food, has been severely limited in Paletwa township of Christian-majority Chin state and in the north of neighbouring Muslim-majority Rakhine State. Families are struggling to survive on limited rations of bananas and vegetables.
Food shortages have forced many to leave the villages of Shangon and Mingaladon near the Dalet Chaung village tract. However, a government-imposed block on internet and mobile services means little is known about how the situation is affecting 36 Chin and five ethnic Rakhine communities in the area.
“We are very concerned about children and breast-feeding mothers,” said a spokeswoman for the Relief and Rehabilitation Committee for Chin IDPs (internally displaced people). “It could be a life-threatening situation.”
Ethnic Chin NGOs are attempting to deliver rice to villagers, but first they must obtain permission from the Myanmar Army. “There’s no food in some places so we arranged to donate 50 sacks of rice to places where residents cannot go anywhere,” said Salai Win Maung from the Chin Humanitarian Assistance team. “But we have not yet received permission from the army.”
Fighting between government forces and the Arakan Army, a rebel military force of Rakhine Buddhists seeking greater self-governance, has been raging in the area for the past 18 months. The conflict has killed 260 civilians and displaced more than 160,000 people. In April 2020, seven people were killed when mortar fire from military jets hit a Chin village in Paletwa Township.