CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Possession is paramount

MANDALAY (UCAN): The government of the Union of Myanmar announced at the end of October that it will harvest the farmlands abandoned by the Rohingya people who have been forced to flee the violence mostly perpetrated by the military in Maungdaw, the Rakhine State, but did not release any plan to compensate the owners or use any of the proceeds to help them.
 
The Global New Light of Myanmar reported that the harvesting programme will cover some 8,000 hectares and will take three months to complete, but it did not give away any information on who will benefit from the bonanza.
 
Nazibullah, a 53-year-old farmer who fled with his wife and family in September, said, “Every year I reap 60,000 kilogrammes (66 metric tons) of rice from my fields. This year the rice yield was great, but sadly I couldn’t harvest my crops.”
 
He explained, “The military and Moghs (Rakhine Buddhists) attacked our village and I fled with my family. I felt staying alive was more important than the crops.”
 
He is now penniless and struggling to feed his family in a camp near Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh.
 
“The Rohingya rely on agriculture from birth to death and by snatching our land the Myanmar government is trying to permanently block our way of return to the country,” Nazibullah pointed out.
 
“Our homes have been burned and now our croplands are gone. Where should we live? What should we eat if we are taken back?” he went on, adding that this puts lie to the government promise of a Rohingya repatriation programme, which is only aimed at stopping international criticism.
 
“We have heard the government will put us in camps when we go back. Even if we were allowed to return, we should not have to live in camps, because we have our home and property,” he said.
 
However, a government spokesperson, Zaw Htay, said the crops would be harvested to prevent loss or damage and the owners of the land would have access to it, but the refugees have their doubts, as it has been a government policy to confiscate abandoned land.
 
Possession is paramount.

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