Rathidaung: The number of people leaving their homeland in Arakan is increasing by the day due to the economic crisis and job scarcity in the western Burmese state, report local residents.
“There are now almost no people in our villages here. Only children and elderly people remain in the villages because the people in the villages – not only the men but also the women – have been leaving for Thailand, Malaysia, and China,” said a villager from Krakroeseik Village, situated on the bank of the Mayu River in Rathidaung Township.
A ticket seller at Toe Ratanar Bus Lines in Rathidaung said passengers from the area have to buy their tickets a couple weeks in advance for their travel on Rangoon and Mandalay-bound buses because the number of people departing from the area is increasing.
“There is no road to travel directly from Rathidaung to Rangoon and the buses are running from Sittwe. But we have now opened a ticket counter in Rathidaung because the people from the area are leaving for the Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese borders in increasing numbers nowadays. People have to wait at least 15 days to get a ticket for their travel on our buses,” said the ticket seller.
Rathidaung is situated 20 miles north of Sittwe, the capital in the region, and it has no road link to Sittwe or to Rangoon. People from the area travel to Sittwe and on to Rangoon by road, and then leave for neighboring countries by crossing over the eastern borders, the ticket seller said.
“There are now three to four ticket selling counters for the different bus lines, such as Toe Ratanar, Shwepyi Rakhine, and King Star. Every counter is selling full tickets for their buses every day because so many people are departing from the area,” he said.
An in-charge of Shwepyi Rakhine Bus Liner also said Rathidaung Township is not the only place people are leaving from – people from almost every township in northern Arakan State, such as Ponnakyunt, Kyauktaw, Mrauk U, Paletwa, Minbya, and Pauktaw Townships, are also leaving their homes to travel out on the Sittwe-Rangoon Road.
“We cannot say if people are leaving to go abroad, but people from almost all townships here are going to Rangoon. There are 60 seats on our buses and every day our buses are full with people leaving the region to go to Rangoon, but we don’t know where they will continue to go from Rangoon,” said the in-charge.
According to the sources, most of the people who are leaving are from rural villages in the region.
“If we have to tell what we have found in our village and nearby villages, there are at least 20 to 30 people leaving for work abroad every day. There are different ages of men, women, and youth,” said an elder from Zaytiprun Village in Rathidaung.
The elder said the people are leaving from their villages because of unemployment in their villages.
“They are leaving from their villages not because they want to, but mainly because they have no jobs in their villages. In a household, only the household head has a job. As their jobs are of farming, they are unable to maintain the living of the whole family. That’s why they are leaving from their villages for job opportunities elsewhere after selling off or mortgaging what they have,” said the elder.
A villager from Laungchaung Village from the area also said only 3 – 4 percent of those who left their villages are doing well, while the majority of them are suffering from various difficulties abroad.
“Not all of those working abroad are doing well, only 3 or 4 in a hundred are able to do well there. They have left their homes for working abroad actually because they have been suffering from joblessness and they just need to make their own living even though they are unable to send their earnings back home,” said the villager.
People from Arakan State are said to be leaving not only for Thailand, Malaysia, and China, but also for Kachin State – where an intense civil war is being waged – for job opportunities.
U Hla Maung Thein, MP of the Regional Parliament from Rathidaung, said he feels heavy in his heart for the future of Arakan State, as the number of Arakanese people leaving their homeland is on the rise.
A farmer from Rathidaung said the paddy farming in the township will be hurt in the coming season because the people who work as farmhands are also among those leaving the area.
“We are now facing a shortage of farmhands. Though we offer double wages, we still have not found a man to work as a farmhand for our paddy farming this coming season. As we are doing our cultivation only by manual labor, the scarcity of farmhands will hurt the paddy production this year in our Arakan region. But we have not found any sign of the authorities considering the matter,” said the farmer.
“Only children and old people are remaining in almost every village in the township because the young, work-aged, people have left their homes to work elsewhere in the country and abroad, and that has caused great difficulty even for the funerals and social functions in those villages as well,” he added.