Indian blockade exacerbates Chin food crisis

Jan 28, 2009 (DVB), Food shortages faced by local people in Tunzan district, northern Chin state, are being exacerbated by the Indian military's blockade of Kathe rebels, according to a local human rights organisation.

Residents of Chin state have been facing a food crisis due to the mass blossoming of bamboo flowers and an explosion in the rat population.

Min Thang Nga of the Zomi Human Rights Foundation said the rats were eating bamboo seeds and also attacking rice crops.

"They continue to face the threat of starvation because of the rats," he said.

"They are running out of rice; by March, they will be in dire straits."

Local people are struggling to find enough to eat and are reliant on being able to cross the border to India, which has been made increasingly difficult by the Indian troops' operation.

But the rebels targeted by the Indian blockade have not been affected by food shortages and have maintained a good relationship with State Peace and Development Council officers.

"The police and soldiers have to depend on the Kathe rebels for everything from cooking oil to onions, split yellow beans," Min Thang Nga said.

"For example, if they want to drink alcohol, the Kathe will provide whatever they want. From the police to the general administrator, they all have to depend on them."

The World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and local non-governmental organisations have been working to help people affected by the food crisis in Chin state, but there has been no concerted assistance effort by the Burmese government.

Reporting by Khin Maung Soe Min

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