Pauk Taw: Cattle thievery that is rampant in the townships in northern Arakan State on the Bangladesh border is not merely a crime, but a crime that is disturbing the sovereignty of the nation, say local lawyers and politicians.
“The thieves are not only from our own country, but also from the neighboring country. They come into our country in engine boats, steal the cattle from our country, and sell it in the neighboring country. Such thievery may be thought of as just petty crimes, but it is cross-border crime and it is disturbing the sovereignty of a nation,” said a local lawyer on condition of anonymity.
The cattle theft is continually occurring in the townships of Pauktaw, Sittwe, Rathidaung, Buthidaung, Ponna Kyunt, and Minbya in Arakan State. The cattle smuggling gangs from the neighboring country are said to be involved in those thefts.
“Eight cattle were stolen from Sinpike Village in Rathidaung Township last month. It was in broad daylight that the thieves came in an engine boat and drove the cattle onto the boat and took them away to the neighboring country. The owners had seen the theft of their cattle, but they did not dare to chase the thieves because they were armed with guns,” said U Maung Hla Myint, Chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party in Rathidaung Township.
Sinpike Village is situated on the seashore and the villagers also said thieves came to their village in an engine boat during the flood tide and took away their cattle by driving them onto their boat. Four of the stolen cattle were owned by U Hla Than Kyaw, two were owned by U Kyaw Tun Hline, one was owned by U Than Phay Thee, and one was owned by U Tun Tun Hline, added the villagers.
A cattle theft also happened in Aungma Village near Laungchaung Village in Rathidaung Township a few months ago, in which the thieves killed the farmer, 53-year-old U Maung Tun Thar, by cutting his throat while he slept in the tent of his paddy farms and stole his five buffalo. The authorities however have been unable to identify and arrest the culprits.
Villagers from Kanprun Village on the bank of the Mayu River in Rathidaung Township also said thieves stole 15 cattle from their village on the night of 15 May, but they were able to save them after chasing the thieves together when they saw their animals being driven toward the engine boat. The thieves reportedly ran away in their boat and left the animals.
Similarly, there are gangs of thieves stealing cattle in Pauktaw Township as well, said a local resident.
“Sixteen buffalo were stolen from our Chaunggree Village in Pauktaw Township during the last month. Five buffalo were also stolen from Tharzay Village situated nearby our village last week. There are gangs of thieves stealing cattle in our area. They steal the animals from our area, smuggle them out in engine boats and sell them in the border markets in Bangladesh. Every day we have to worry for our cattle because thefts are increasing in our township nowadays,” said the resident.
He said the buffalo are being stolen in greater numbers than oxen in Pauktaw Township, and the animals are sold for use in cultivation in the neighboring country.
It was also learnt that many cattle, including three oxen owned by retired headmaster U Ba Chan, and one ox owned by Ko Ba San from Thaytak Village were stolen from the villages in Ponna Kyunt Township in recent months as well.
“Such cattle theft is continually occurring almost every day. I don’t think that the local authorities would be involved in those thefts. But most of the local people think that the authorities are abetting the thieves in stealing their cattle because they have never caught the thieves,” said a young lawyer from Pauktaw.
He said the cattle are mainly used for agriculture in Arakan State and the increasing cattle thefts are already hurting the paddy farming and cultivations in the region and would do so the interests of the nation someway.
“The State would be hurt so if the Arakanese farmers have to continue suffering of losses from those cross-border cattle thefts. So, the government should not consider this problem lightheartedly and should seek cooperation from Bangladesh’s government as well. I think it would be possible to stop such crimes only by the bilateral cooperation”, he said.
According to the sources on the border, there are some events the farmers from Arakan State have come to the border towns of Teknaf and Shahporidip in Bangladesh for searching their stolen cattle as they have suffered from losses of lakhs of kyat when they have lost one of their cattle. The farmers have found their cattle being put on sale openly in the markets of those towns, but they could not do anything to bring back their animals and had to go back home in despair.