This ban on rice transportation resulted from the refusal of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) to join the Burmese army’s Border Guard Force (BGF)

April 7th, 2011

Lyi Htaw – Ever since the Burmese army base in Tavoy forbade the transportation of rice to Tavoy District, Tenasserim Division in 2010, the Internally Displace Persons (IDP) camp there has suffered from a significant shortage of rice.

The entry sign to Tenasserim Division The entry sign to Tenasserim Division

According to a Mon Relief and Development Committee (MRDC) member at the Tavoy Resettlement Site, residents living in Tavoy District are subsisting on “rice gruel” [watered-down rice].

This ban on rice transportation resulted from the refusal of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) to join the Burmese army’s Border Guard Force (BGF). The area in which the IDP camp is situated was formerly under NMSP control and this ban is a punishment resulting from their refusal and subsequent end to the ceasefire agreement between the NMSP and the Burmese government.

The MRDC is consequently experiencing difficulties in aiding the IDP camp residents. Currently, MRDC is trying to find a way to continue their assistance to the camp for the year 2011. MRDC staff have now explained that they will aid the camp monetarily instead.

The MRDC secretary, Nai Panyar Ein, worries that monetary aid will be less beneficial than providing rice. “If we provide the rice, it’s okay for the IDPs but if we give money, there will be a problem because it may run out,” he explained. Providing rice allows those people who receive it to ration their portions, whereas providing money is less stable, and MRDC worries that the money will be spent on other commodities.

MRDC aids the Tavoy IDP camp three times per year. Each internally displaced person receives one bag of rice, equalling 45 kg. Normally, the MRDC spends 20,000 kyat for the rice it provides. Nai Panyar Ein explained that if aiding monetarily, they hope to provide the same amount of money.

As of now, though, the MRDC has not received money from its donors yet, and therefore, does not know how much money they will be able to provide this year.

The rice transportation ban stipulates that a car can only carry two bags of rice at a time. To transport rice from Mon State to Tavoy District, one must pass a Burmese army checkpoint, which makes carrying more than two bags of rice impossible.

Currently, the Tavoy Resettlement Site carries its rice from Yebyu township, Yebu village, Tenasserim Division, which is about ten miles away. Yet, if the Burmese army finds out that the IDPs are carrying the rice, the Burmese army stops them in their path.

There are five villages in the Tavoy Resettlement Site. Four of these are permanent residents, while the fifth village is used for temporary refugees from conflict areas. Around 2500 IDPs currently live at the resettlement site.

The camp area is located about 10 miles from the Tavoy highway as well. Supplies have to be transported via cart during the dry season and by boat during the rainy season.

Most IDP camp residents gain their primary incomes from highland rice cultivation, cashew nut farming, and by working as day laborers. The MRDC supplements these incomes with rice supplies.

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