Exodus of Headmen Leaves Kyauktaw Farmers in a Bind

The mass resignation of village administrators in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township has made it harder for farmers to get loans at a crucial time.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Farmers in Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township are facing a crisis as much-needed agricultural loans become impossible to get in the wake of a wave of resignations by local village administrators.

Most farmers in Burma depend heavily on loans at this time of year to cover the cost of planting crops at the start of the rainy season. Any delay in obtaining credit could jeopardize their earnings for the entire year.

But now farmers in Kyauktaw say they are struggling to get the cash they need because no bank will lend to them unless they can show land-ownership documents normally provided by their village administrators.

“We’re having trouble borrowing money because we don’t have a village headman. The bank clerks are trying to help, but there’s not much they can do. The bank will only give us loans if we have a Form 7 [land-ownership document],” said Kyaw Hla Myint, one of the affected farmers.

“We need money right now to pay for labor, plowing and paddy seeds. But the planting season is almost over, and I still can’t get a loan,” said another farmer from Thar Si—one of 57 villages that have lost their village administrators since the start of this month.

The crisis started on June 4, when 46 village administrators walked off the job over a spate of arrests by the Burma Army targeting village headmen suspected of supporting the Arakan Army. They were followed on Monday by 11 more who said they would only return to their positions if those arrested are released without charges.

The farmers are calling on the authorities to do something about the situation before it’s too late.

“The township is trying to replace the headmen, but nobody wants the job. But the former headmen said they would go back to work again if their demands are met,” said a farmer from the village of Bo Min who spoke to NMG.

“As farmers, we are worried that we will miss the planting season. If we can’t get the loans we need, we will have many problems this year. There are clashes in our area almost every day. We have many difficulties. We want the government to see the situation from our perspective.”