The sudden arrival of half a million Rohingya Muslims has upended life in this humble village, which is now overshadowed by one of the largest concentrations of refugees in the world.
The village’s rundown school and a smattering of rice paddies sit across the road from thousands of acres of bamboo huts covered by black tarp, a safe harbor for the refugees fleeing ethnic violence in Burma. That land was once a forest where villagers picked wild fruit.
Last Saturday, the midday tea-sipping crowd hung out on the benches in front of Munwara Begum’s provisions store here. In their discussion were echoes of a conversation happening around the world about the costs of compassion toward refugees. It was one filled with conflicting emotions.
“The price of rice has doubled since they came. The price of rickshaws has doubled. Vegetables, soap, you name it, and the price has gone up,” said Begum, counting her very real grievances on her fingers. Basic economics is at work here: When demand rises sharply and supply lags in catching up, prices rise.