Because of a harsh weather, drought and crop failures in Shan State, hundreds of people are migrating to Thailand almost every day from the beginning of this year, according to sources from the Thai-Burma border.
There are over a thousand people arriving in Fang now and other places along the Thai border, said a social worker in Fang.
An average number of people who fled to the areas were about 400 per month. Currently, they are working at orange farms in Fang. “But they are not well-paid,” he said.
A female worker is paid Baht 80 (US$ 2.47) and a male worker is paid Baht 90 (US $2.78) per day. People who have official document papers received Baht 120 (US$3.71).
According to him, the villagers were mostly from townships in Shan State South; Kehsi, Mongkeung, Laikha, Langkher, Loilem, Hopong, Namzang and Mongpan, where the Burma Army and rebel groups frequently fight against each other. Thus there were also people who fled from junta-backed militia’s recruiting campaign. And some were from Tangyan township in northern Shan State.
A local villager in Loilem, who requested anonymity,said big trees in the areas are being cut down everyday by businessmen who got teak permits from the junta authorities. Others cut down for poppy cultivations and some are cutting for shifting-cultivation.“Therefore there have been water shortage and no rain,” he said. “Not only the water in the river is dry but also water in the wells is dry. There were many places where people don’t get any single drop of rain even though it was rainy season.”
Almost all of villages in Shan State South were unable to grow their crops and paddy because there was not enough water. This situation has been obviously getting worse within the last year. People are mainly relying on agricultures and farms, growing groundnut, soya beans, onion and garlic. But there had no market for onion and garlic this year, said a trader from Langkher township.
Another fact that has led people to move was because of less opium output and several abuses by local Burmese authorities, said another source from Mongkeung.
This year, the opium output has dropped down to 20 times compared to the previous years, due to unbalance weather conditions, even thought the last poppy season (2008-09) saw some increase.
“People who used to get 1 viss (1.6 kg) last year, just got about 0.20 viss (0.32 kg) this year,” he said.
On the other hand, the local authorities have also been destroying some of the fields though they have not stopped collecting taxes from the farmers. “Farmers were asked to pay taxes. If not the family members would be arrested and would be fined double,” said a poppy farmer in Loilem.
And sometimes villagers were arbitrarily arrested by the Burma Army accusing them as rebel supporters.
A few days ago, some local villagers in Namzang township were tortured by the authorities for failing to inform them about the rebels in the areas. On 13 March, the Burma Army battalions based in Namzang township were attacked by the non-ceasefire Shan State Army (SSA) ‘South’, leaving 20 Burmese soldiers dead.