New Delhi - The ongoing acute food shortage in Chin state of western Burma is exacerbated through the corruption of local authorities, a Chin human rights group reports.
The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) on Thursday said that the famine in Chin state, resulting from a scarcity of food, is worsened by local authorities who hinder and seize humanitarian aid intended for the local people.
CHRO said local authorities in Paletwa Township of Chin state in January seized more than 300 bags of rice donated by a Roman Catholic Church as relief aid for famine victims.
Besides this confiscation, another 150 bags on February of rice donated by the Church of the Province of Myanmar were also seized and sold for profit by the same local authorities.
"A mandatory purchasing order was imposed on residents of Paletwa by the authorities, instructing them to buy the seized rice at an overpriced rate," CHRO said in a statement released on Thursday.
Tera, a representative of CHRO based in India's Mizoram state bordering Burma, said, "The Chairman of the local township peace and development council led the seizure of rice bags and later resold the confiscated rice to local people at an overpriced rate."
While a bag of rice in a normal market costs approximately $16, authorities ordered locals to buy the seized rice at a rate of approximately $18 per bag, Tera added.
Since the beginning of 2008, people in Chin state have reportedly suffered from a dire shortage of food. According to Chin folklore, the famine occurs once every 50 years, when rats are released into the fields and consume all food.
Tera related that there are about 100 villages in Paletwa Township and about 600 villagers from more than 40 villages have fled to the Indian border seeking relief from the famine.
Victor Biak Lian, a member of CHRO's Board of Directors said, "This is very cruel action from the Burmese authority. Even if they refuse to help the local villagers, they should not add to their grievances."
He added that CHRO plans to come up with an alternative way to help people with food aid.
CHRO also called on the international community as well as humanitarian aid groups to come to the assistance of the Chin people, who are currently going hungry due to the confluence of famine and ongoing persecution from authorities.