Myanmar/Burma — Since the conflict between the Rohingya and the Burmese government has continued since last year, almost 700,000 Rohingya have been driven from their homes and into refugee camps on the border of Bangladesh. Approximately 90% of the entire people had been driven from their homes in Rakhine state, which they have occupied for generations. As with any permanent presence, they had built certain levels of infrastructure in the area to include large amounts of farmland.
Upon their expulsion, the military took control of many pieces of land in the area, but they certainly do not have the resources nor the inclination to occupy every inch of land throughout Rakhine. Now, there is a distinct vacancy in approximately 70,000 acres of farmland. The local Rakhine government (the state from which the Rohingya fled) are not sure what they are going to do.
A local Burmese publication interviewed Rakhine State’s minister for agriculture, livestock, forestry and mining. U Kyaw Lwin told them, “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 Chief Minister of Rakhine has expressed interest in leasing the farmland out to private companies, though that has not yet been approved. In 2017, the government was able to harvest the lands left behind by the Rohingya, but a decision has not yet been made about this year.
The Rohingya weren’t the only ones occupying Rakhine State — Rakhine is derived from Arakan, an ancient kingdom who assimilated into Burma in the late 1700s. That original peoplegroup are the Rakhine, a largely Theravada Buddhists population who comprise approximately 5.5% of the country’s population.
The Rohingya have made their way onto the headlines over the last year. Reports of thousands of Rohingya children being killed in the violence have come from multiple news organizations, as well as the military using rape as a weapon and other war crimes. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya insurgent group, has been accused of killing 100 Burmese civilians, on top of the attacks on law enforcement personnel prior to the military’s genocidal response.
Now, much of the military’s attention has shifted. As they have in the past, the military historically focuses their offensives on one ethnic minority at a time, and the heat is beginning rise on the Kachin, a majority Christian group to the far north.
Featured image: A man drives a cow cart on the way back to a farm in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday, Nov. 8. 2016. | AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo