The Irrawaddy

Rakhine Govt Undecided on How to Use Farmland Abandoned by Rohingya Refugees

SITTWE, Rakhine State — The Rakhine State government has not yet made a decision regarding some 70,000 acres of abandoned farmland in Maungdaw Township left behind by Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh last year.

“We’re still waiting for the policy of the Union government. We’ll do as it says. We don’t have enough workers for 70,000 acres of farmland,” the Rakhine State minister for agriculture, livestock, forestry and mining U Kyaw Lwin told The Irrawaddy.

Rice is grown twice a year in many parts of Myanmar, with rainwater in the monsoon season and irrigated water in the summer months. As monsoon season begins, farmers are preparing.

The Rakhine State government will allow Rohingya villagers who have not fled to continue working their original farms, said the minister.

Rakhine State lawmaker U Maung Ohn of Maungdaw Township said the abandoned farmlands should be leased out to local ethnic farmers and private rice-growing companies.

“It is not a good idea to leave those farmlands unattended. Local ethnic people and landless farmers should be allowed to farm there if they wish. It is also a good idea to lease it out to private companies that have agricultural machinery,” said U Maung Ohn.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation previously planned to use some 10,000 acres of the 70,000 acres of farmland. But it aborted the plan, as it is difficult to find the labor and to watch over the paddy fields, head of the Rakhine State Agriculture Department U Toe Wai told The Irrawaddy.

Minister U Kyaw Lwin denied media reports that those farmlands have been leased to private companies.

The government previously harvested those 70,000 acres of paddy fields left behind by Rohingya Muslims who fled into Bangladesh after a terror attack on police outposts in Maungdaw in August last year.

There are a total of 11 million acres of paddy fields in Rakhine with over 74,000 acres in Maungdaw, over 77,000 in Buthidaung, and over 88,000 acres in Rathedaung Township, according to the state agriculture department.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.