Buddhist Monk Arranges Rice Donation to Kachins

By Nan Thiri Lwin 3 October 2012

RANGOON—One of Burma’s most respected senior monks, U Nyanithara, will present a donation of 100 sacks of rice to people in Putao, a district in the northernmost part of Kachin State where people have been facing shortages for several months.

“Sacks of rice were sent to Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, by train. Sayadaw [Nyanithara] will be there to collect them on Oct. 12,” U Kawwidaka, a senior monk and colleague of U Nyanithara, told The Irrawaddy.

The rice was purchased through donations to U Nyanithara’s Buddhist charity which operates nationwide.

U Nyanithara, also known as Thidagu Sayadaw, is popular among many Burmese for his Dhamma talks [Buddhist teachings] in which he openly talks about democracy. He is active in humanitarian work and well known for his water supply projects, known as the Thidagu Water Donations. He also has helped establish Buddhist charity groups in the US, Canada, Australia and in the Europe.

“Sayadaw will make donations to Myitkyina Prison and also at a hospital for eye patients. Then he will go to Putao around Oct. 15,” continued U Kawwidaka.

People in Putao District have reportedly been facing rice shortages since August due to a poor harvest. In addition, the ongoing conflict in Kachin State—between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army—which makes cultivation and transportation difficult in the region.

“Rice production was poor last year and the harvest is yet to come for this season,” said Le Paw Ye, a member of the Kachin State Parliament representing Putao Township. “A lack of access to the roads because of the ongoing clashes has exacerbated the rice crisis.”

Putao, Machanbaw and Sonparabon townships are reportedly the areas most affected by a scarcity of rice, leaving many locals subsidizing their diet with foods such as banana pith and taro.

“The State government has come here to sell rice,” a Putao resident told The Irrawaddy. “Whoever can afford it, buys some. But the others go without.”

He said the Kachin State government has transported rice to Putao fortnightly by plane to sell, but it has been insufficient.

Le Paw Ye said that the Putao rice crisis has already been discussed in the State Parliament as an urgent matter, and that regional legislators decided to call on the Union Government to provide assistance.

Some local donors have gone to the area and distributed rice among the needy, but most have found it difficult to continue due to high transportation costs.

“We have collected about 70 sacks of rice, but can’t afford the transportation charges by plane. It seems that we have to ask Thidagu Sayadaw for help,” U Wizayaka, an abbot from Waimaw Township, told The Irrawaddy.

Over 120,000 people currently live in Putao District, and basic rice requirements for the township are calculated to be about 4,000 sacks of rice per month.