Second Rat-Caused Famine Hits Kachin Hills

Written by KNG
Friday, 16 October 2009 16:09
Rat infestation has caused severe famine for the second time in recent memory in the Kachin hills in military-ruled Burma’s northern Kachin State, said local sources.

In a 50-year cycle, bamboos flower when bamboo groves begin to die. The flowers are eaten by rodents which multiply in huge numbers. The rats go on the rampage and eat crops both on the field and in godown storages, causing famine. The phenomenon is common in Chin state, Burma and contiguous Mizoram state in northeast India.

The small rats, also called Yu Nun in Kachin language have destroyed all standing crops in the Triangle Areas, which are under the control of the 1st Brigade of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since June, said local sources.

According to data compiled by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the political-wing of the KIA, 1,086 Kachin villagers in 16 villages in Hkin Dawng and Dagu Lum Townships in Puta-O district of KIO/KIA are suffering the effects of the famine caused by rats. Different crops of 135 households accounting for a total of 792 people out of 189 have been completely destroyed by the rodents, whereas the crops of the rest of the 54 households representing 294 people have been partially destroyed by the rampaging rats, said KIO officials.

While rats have also destroyed all crops in different Triangle Areas, it is not as severe as the two townships at the moment, said people in those areas.

KIO officials in Laiza headquarters on the Sino-Burma border said, the KIO has officially declared an emergency in the famine affected zone. It is arranging for food and medical relief as of early this month.

For emergency relief missions, the KIO officials are into discussions with the junta and local and international non-governmental organizations, a KIO officer told KNG today.

Most of the Triangle Areas are mountainous and people here survive cultivating paddy, corns and other crops over generations.

The first famine caused by rats, also called ‘Yu Li Hku’, meaning rat-caused famine in Kachin in these areas was in 1977 after bamboos flowered. The widespread famine forced thousands of people to flee to Myitkyina and Puta-O districts.

According to a KIO officer, the size of the rats in this famine is much smaller than those in the first famine.

The KIO and local people had thought that the rats would simultaneously destroy crops for three consecutive years, but it seems the rodents may severely destroy crops for a year.

The rat-caused famine has occurred in the 1st brigade of the KIA, even as there are apprehensions of civil war resuming between the KIO/KIA and the Burmese Army following a political stand-off over transforming KIA to the Burmese Army-controlled Border Guard Force.

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