Arakan State Govt to abolish fishing block auction

Sittwe: The regional government in Arakan State has decided to close down the system of auctioning off fishing blocks that are being portioned the coastline, rivers, creeks and ponds in the region starting from 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Photo by: Dany 13 on flickr

U Aung Mra Kyaw, a parliamentarian from Arakan’s Capital Sittwe, said the governmental decision was made on the fifth day of the fifth session in the regional parliament.

“The Minister of Chin National Race Affairs, U Ko Ko Naing, proposed to the parliament they reconsider the auctioning off fishing blocks that has been immensely troubling to the people in Arakan State. As his proposal was supported by other representatives, the parliament had to accept his proposal”,said U Aung Mra Kyaw.

It is learnt that U Kyaw Thein, the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries of the Arakan State Government, demanded the parliament postpone the proposal to be discussed in the next session.

The Chairman of the Parliament was however said to have accepted the proposal and given final decision to the proposal of abolishing the system of bidding fishing blocks to the businessmen on the same day as the majority of the lawmakers insisted that the parliament should make an urgent decision on the proposal as the Arakanese people have been long suffering from that system.

“Arakanese people have been suffering especially from this auction. They have had to pay at least Kyat 400-500 million per year unnecessarily. This system has deprived the people of their rights for fishing in the rivers and creeks in our region as well. We are glad to see the abolishment of this system because it will be very beneficial to the people in our region”, said U Aung Mra Kyaw.

The system of bidding for fishing blocks was established by the Western Command in Arakan State after the military government seized power in 1988.

According to the system, the local fishermen have to pay toll-taxes as per their boats or their fishing equipments such as fishing nets and rods to fish in a particular block to the respective businessmen who bid the blocks.

Similarly the local people have been restricted not to fish even for their sustenance in the ponds, rivers and creeks in their neighborhood. If they would fish, they have to pay 500 kyat per a fishing net and 300 kyat per a fishing rod, etc to the bidders of those waters.

The commanders who were appointed for the western command in Arakan State during the reigns of the SLORC and SPDC regimes were said to have hugely profited from the auction system as the businessmen who bid at the auction had to bribe hundreds of millions kyat to those military officers in order to win a lucrative fishing block such as the block abundant in fishes off the coast of Alaethankyaw in southern Maungdaw Township in the region.

Such auction systems designed by those military officers in order to collect toll taxes has left the local fishing communities in stringent poverty though it has made them millionaires within one or two years of their services in Arakan State.

Besides this auction system for the waters, the Burmese military officers have forcibly confiscated many acres of arable lands from the local farmers and have been renting the lands back to the farmers for their own profit in Arakan State as well.

These are the main reasons behind why Arakan State has become the second poorest region in Burma.