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Dhaka: Arakan ranks second after Chin State for poverty among the fourteen states and divisions in poverty-stricken Burma, according to a report of results from a survey on household living conditions.

The report, titled "Poverty Profile", was published by the UNDP in Burma in June 2011 and was based on surveys taken in 2004 - 2005 and 2009 - 2010 through its Integrated Household Living Conditions Assessment that has been implemented with the Burmese government's Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.

The report said the highest rate of poverty is in Chin State, at 73%, followed by Arakan State at 44%, Tanintharyi Division at 33%, Shan State at 33%, and Ayeyerwaddy Division at 32%.

Arakan State in the western coastal region has potential, with its geographically rich natural resources, to become a developed and prosperous state compared to other states and regions in Burma. But, Arakanese intellectual Dr. Aye Kyaw from New York says, Arakan being ruled as a hidden colony with militarization for many years is the main reason it has become an impoverished state in Burma.

"Arakan is just a hidden colony existing under cover of a state with over militarization by the Burmese forces for so many years. Now there are over 60 battalions based in the state and they are not the forces being deployed for the well-being of the state, but for monopolizing the state's resources for their own benefit, and these are the reasons why Arakan became impoverished," said Dr. Aye Kyaw.

He said the forces have confiscated many arable lands from the local people and contained the people's access to natural resources with strict rules within the state.

Dr. Aye Chan, an Arakanese professor from Japan's Kanta University, also said the high level of poverty afflicts the state because the government and its armed forces has monopolized even resources such as land, waters, and forests, on which the local residents depend for the livelihoods.

"All natural products and resources are being monopolized by the government and its forces in Arakan State. For example, the local residents have no right to fish in their nearby waters such as ponds, creeks, rivers, and the sea, for their livelihoods without paying a huge toll and tax to them. That is the reason why the highest level of poverty afflicts the state," said Dr. Aye Chan.

He said despite the multibillion international business projects being constructed for exporting gas and oil found in onshore and offshore fields in Arakan State, most of the Arakanese people are fleeing their homeland to find jobs elsewhere to survive.

Over three million people are now living in Arakan State and it is estimated that over a million people have left their homeland for mainland Burma and neighboring countries due to political oppression and economic hardships in their state.

According to the report, Arakan also has the lowest level of literacy, with 71% of primary enrollment rate and 32% of secondary enrollment rate.

In terms of electricity, Arakan State has the lowest access rate, with just 26% of the population having access to electricity, most of whom are urban dwellers.
However, the report said the poverty rate has fallen by 6% across the whole of Burma according to the 2009 - 2010 survey as compared to the 2004 - 2005 survey, and the current poverty rate in the country is 26%, of which 70% is from people living in rural areas.
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