Kyaukpyu District, 1908

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This article has been extracted from



Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.


Kyaukpyu District

Physical aspects

Seaboard District in the centre of the Arakan Division, Lower Burma, lying between 18° 40' and 20° 40' N. and 93° 13' and 94° 26' E., with an area of 4,387 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Akyab District ; on the east by the Arakan Yoma, which cuts it off from Thayetmyo and Minbu Districts ; on the south by Sandoway District ; and on the west by the Bay of Bengal, It includes a strip of mainland extending along the western slopes and foot-hills of the Arakan Yoma aspects

as far south as the Mai river and the large islands of Ramree and Cheduba, with a small archipelago of lesser islets stretching to the north and south along the coast, separated from the mainland by a number of tidal creeks, and surrounding two indentations known as Hunter's Bay and Combermere Bay. Kyaukpyu harbour is the name given to a large area of water extending for 30 miles between Ramree Island and the mainland, with an average width ot 3 miles. At its mouth are several dangerous rocks rising abruptly out of the sea, which render ingress at night dangerous. The principal mountain range is the Arakan Yoma, which sends out spurs almost up to the sea-coast, and is crossed at two points, known as the An and Dalet passes. A chain of low hills traverses Ramree Island from north- west to south-east. There are no rivers of any importance in the District; the An and Ualet streams, which drain the mainland, are navigable by large boats for distances of 45 and 25 miles respectively from their mouths. Above these points they are mere mountain torrents.

The rocks composing the surface are partly Cretaceous and partly eocene. The sandstones and shales of Ramree may be Cretaceous, but no marked characteristics are apparent by which the rocks of the island can be divided into two series. On the island of Cheduba are several mud volcanoes, small conical hillocks of blackish-grey mud, discharging marsh gas and occasionally flames of great brilliancy. Except in the case of one of these in Cheduba Island, there have been no explosions of the latter kind for ten years. This volcano broke out once in 1903 and was active during 1904, the eruptions being caused by petroleum gases. On these occasions large masses of dense smoke issue, flames shoot up, it is said, to a height of 1,000 feet, and mud is ejected with great force. It is stated that the last eruption was visible from the deck of a coasting steamer 50 miles away.

The coast is characterized by the mangrove and tidal forests common to all the maritime Districts of the Province, which are described in the Botany paragraph of Hanthawaddv District. Nothing is known of plant-life in the inland portion.

The forests abound with tigers, bears, deer, and wild hog. ^^Tld elephants roam on the Arakan Yoma in the An township.

The climate is notoriously unhealthy, malarial fevers and bowel diseases prevailing, the former at the beginning, the latter at the end of the rains. It is unfortunate that Kyaukpyu town itself, which seventy years ago was said to enjoy comparative salubrity, is situated in what later years have shown to be a specially pestilential area ; and it is possible that, if the head-quarters were moved, the District would lose much of its evil reputation. The temperature varies but little throughout the year, averaging 84° in 1900, during which year the maximum temperature, registered in June, was 97°, and the minimum, in January, was 74°.

The rains last from May to October, being heaviest in July, August, and September. The annual rainfall for the whole area during the three years 1902-4 averaged 182 inches. It was greatest at Ramree (203 inches) and least at An (161 inches).


The District was part of the once powerful kingdom of Arakan, and its history is included in the sketch given in the article on the Arakan Division. After the conquest of Arakan by the History. Burmans at the close of the eighteenth century, the mainland portion of the District belonged to Arakan proper, while Ramree and Cheduba Islands formed separate governorships. On the cession of Arakan to the British the two islands were formed into one Dfstrict, called Ramree District, and the mainland into the An District ; but these two charges were amalgamated nearly thirty years afterwards, and made into Kyaukpyu District. The garrison of Arakan, trans- ferred to Kyaukpyu from Sandoway shortly after the annexation, was withdrawn altogether in 1855.


The population at the last four enumerations was: (1872) 144,177, (1881) i49,303» (1891) 163,832, and (1901) 168,827. The chief statistics for 1901 are shown in the* follow- ing table : —


Along the coast the population is fairly dense, but in the hilly M}'ebon and An tracts, which border on the Arakan Yoma, the people are more scattered. Burmese is spoken by 42,222, and Arakanese by 109,596. The Chins of the District retain their dialect, practically none speaking Burmese, as many of them do on the other side of the Yoma.

The Arakanese number 128,300 (more than three-fourths of the total population), distributed mainly in the island townships of Kyaukpyu, Cheduba, and Ramree. The Burmans, who are found chiefly in the An and Myebon townships, number 22,600. The Chins come next with 13,300 ; for the most part they are inhabitants of the hilly An and Myebon townships. There is a fluctuating population of immigrants from Chittagong, who come over for the harvest and sometimes settle and prosper. Musalmans have lived in the District for centuries, most of them being descendants of natives of Bengal captured in the nume- rous wars. They numbered 3,700 in 1901, while Hindus were only 420. The population dependent upon agriculture in 1901 was 124,200, or 73 per cent, of the total. Of this number, about 15,260 were dependent on taungya cultivation alone. The number of Christians in 1901 was 121, of whom 79 were natives. No missions have been established.


There is no irrigation, and the rice depends entirely on the rainfall, which is, however, regular and plentiful. The soil, except near the rivers, is not very good, and in the townships of Kyaukpyu and Ramree is sandy. Taungya or shifting cultivation prevails in the hills. In 1881 there were 166 square miles cultivated; in 1891, 189; in 1901, 242 square miles. The main agricultural statistics for 1903-4 are given below, in square miles : —


In 1903-4 rice occupied 227 square miles, of which about 1,000 acres were mayin or hot-season rice. The cultivation of sugar-cane, formerly large, has decreased considerably of late, and is now only 450 acres. Tobacco is grown in the townships of Kyaukpyu, Cheduba, and Ramree, covering 2,800 acres. Garden cultivation extends over 3,800 acres, including 400 acres under mangoes. The datn palm {AUpa fruticans), the leaves of which are used for roofing houses, and which produces a kind of sugar and toddy, is grown on nearly 3,000 acres.

Cattle are more numerous than in the neighbouring District of San- doway. They are imported from Upper Burma through the An pass. Buffaloes are largely used for cultivation, and thrive better than cattle, owing to the character of the soil. Goats are kept in a few villages by natives of India, but are nowhere bred on a large scale.

Pyingado {Xy/ia dolabriformis) is the most valuable timber tree. From the An southwards it forms compact masses of forest all along the lower hills and the adjoining plains ; north of the An to the Dalet it occurs in patches, but north of the Dalet it ceases altogether. Pyin-_ gado is also met with on the hills of Ramree Island. The An drainage is covered with bamboo forests, each only a few acres in extent, con- taining pyingado. Kanyinbyu {Dipterocarpus alatus\ used for houses and boats and for extraction of wood-oil, is common throughout the District. In Ramree Island thitya {Shorea obtusa), pyinma {Lager- stroemia Flos Pegrnae), and shaivhi {Beilschmiedia sp.) are in request for building purposes. A species of kokko {Albizzia Lebbek) and pytfima are much used for boat-building, for which kauyinbyu also is valuable. The Forest department used not to be represented in the District, but proposals for introducing regular administration have lately been sanctioned.

The minerals worked are limestone, clay for pottery and bricks, and petroleum. Two companies are at work with American machinery extracting oil at Yenandaung in the Kyaukpyu township. In places the natives also work on modern lines, though here and there the primitive system of drawing the oil up in earthenware pots from holes about 4 feet in diameter is still seen in operation. Petroleum is sold at 4 annas per maund at the well mouth. Rather more than 100,000 gal- lons is produced annually. Limestone is extracted from the hills in the Ramree and Cheduba townships. Iron in Ramree Island and coal in Ramree and Cheduba Islands have been discovered, but are not worked.

Trade and Communication

The manufacture of salt by evaporation of sea-water is carried on in the Kyaukpyu and Ramree townships. The sea-water is passed through five pans, remaining for some days in each, so as to evaporate, and is then run into a salt-tank. Iradeand Finally it is poured into earthen vessels and boiled.

The output of the District in 1903 was about 41,000 cwt., of which almost half was exported. Mat-weaving and pottery of the roughest kind are the only other manufactures. Very few potters possess a wheel ; as a rule they use only a flat stick for modelling. The clay used is procured locally from the neighbouring hill-sides. Unlike the Burman, the Arakanese is a poor carpenter, and for bridge-building labour has to be obtained from India or other parts of Burma. The census returns show that there are many boat-builders in the District.

There are very few traders, though a few shops kept by natives of India are to be found in Kyaukpyu and Ramree. Kyaukpyu is a port of some local importance. The exports are rice, salt, timber, fish- maws, hides, and horns, sent for the most part to Akyab. The imports are mainly hardware, food-stuffs, cloth, longyis (waistcloths), cotton, and silk. Statistics of the trade of Kyaukpyu will be found in the article on that town.

Trade is chiefly in the hands of the British India Steam Navigation Company, whose steamers call weekly at Kyaukpyu in both directions, giving communication with Akyab, Sandoway, and Rangoon. Sub- sidized launches maintain weekly services to the head-quarters of the townships, and launches run also to Akyab and Sandoway. Kyaukpyu had no direct telegraphic connexion with the rest of Burma until 1906. Messages used to be sent by special messenger to a station about 50 miles from head-quarters. There are no metalled roads of any length in the District, the usual method of communication being by boat, but even boat travelling is impracticable during the monsoon. Tracks lead into Upper Burma over the main passes. The Dalet pass is difficult and but little used, but the road over the An pass is a trade route of some local importance. A lighthouse will probably be erected on Beacon Island off Cheduba.


The District contains five townships : the An township in the north- east, the Myebon township in the north-west, and the island townships of Ramree, Kyaukpyu, and Cheduba, In 1904 Myebon, An, and Kyaukpyu were grouped together in the Kyaukpyu subdivision. The townships are in charge of the usual executive officers. The head-quarters treasury is supervised by the assistant magistrate, and there is an akutnvun in charge of the revenue. The District forms a subdivision of the Arakan Public Works division, conterminous with the civil Division. The land records staff consists of a superintendent, 3 inspectors, and 31 surveyors, and there are 540 village headmen for the maintenance of order in the interior.

The Deputy Commissioner of Kyaukpyu is also District Judge. AVith the exception of the Kyaukpyu township court, all the township courts are presided over by the respective township officers. The Kj'aukpyu township judge, who is also treasury officer and head- quarters magistrate, has Small Cause jurisdiction up to Rs. 50 within the Kyaukpyu municipal limits. The criminal courts are presided over by the executive officials ; at Kyaukpyu town there are four magistrates, in addition to the Deputy-Commissioner. The work of the criminal courts is not heavy, though thefts and assaults with dangerous weapons are common. There are benches of honorary magistrates at Kyaukpyu and Ramree.

Under native rule the taxes levied were the same as in other Dis- tricts : namely, imposts on houses, trades, forest produce, and the like. The earliest step towards a regular assessment appears to have been made in 1828, when a rough scale of rates was drawn up by the Super- intendent and approved by the Bengal Government. An attempt was made in these early days to collect land revenue on the Indian zaniin- ddri principle, but the experiment seems to have been doomed to failure from the outset. A portion of the District, comprising an area of about 680 square miles, was settled in 1898-9, when the rates on rice land varied from 10 annas to Rs. 2-8 per acre, while garden lands were assessed at rates varying from Rs. 2 to Rs. 4 per acre. In 1905 a sum- mary settlement dealing with a further area of about 600 square miles was effected. In this area rice land is assessed at rates varying from Rs. 1-4 to Rs. 2-1-2 per acre. Garden land, plantains, and dani pay Rs. 2 per acre, while miscellaneous cultivation (including betel-vine) is assessed at Rs. 2-8 per acre, and each solitary fruit tree at 2 annas. The table on the next page shows how the revenue has increased since 1 880-1, the figures representing thousands of rupees.

The total revenue for 1903-4 includes capitation tax (Rs. 1,70,000) and excise (Rs. 1,40,000).

The District cess fund, chiefly derived from a ro per cent, levy on the land revenue, is administered by the Deputy-Commissioner for the maintenance of communications, <S:c. The income in 1903-4 was Rs. 35,000. KvAUKPYU is now the only municipality, though Ramree was a municipality up to 1899.


Under the District Superintendent of police are 2 inspectors, 4 head constables, and 236 rank and file, distributed in 10 police stations and 4 outposts. The military police belong to the Rangoon battalion, and are kept at head-quarters and changed every six months, a measure rendered necessary by the unhealthiness of the District ; they number 60, commanded by d^ jemadar. At the District head-quarters is a jail with accommodation for 146 male and 14 female prisoners, who are chiefly employed in mat-making and coir-pounding.

Small interest is taken in education ; and the pongyis, who are few in number and are said to lack enthusiasm, do but little to further the efforts of the deputy-inspector of schools, who is in educational charge of the District. There is an Anglo-vernacular school at Kyaukpyu, and a few lay schools have been opened in the township head-quarters, but no schools are maintained for the Chins of the neighbouring hills. with education stagnant, it is not surprising that the standard of literacy is low. The percentage of literate males is 34 and of literate females 3, compared with 38 and 4-5 for the Province as a whole. For both sexes together the proportion is 18 per cent. The number of pupils rose from 643 in 1881 to 1,609 in 1891 and 2,308 in 1901. In 1903-4 the District contained 5 secondary, 83 primary, and 155 ele- mentary (private) schools, attended by 4,628 pupils (222 girls). The educational expenditure was Rs. 8,900, towards which municipal funds contributed Rs. 1,500, the District cess fund Rs. 4,200, Provincial funds Rs. 1,300, and fees Rs. 1,900.

The only hospital is at Kyaukpyu, with 30 beds. In 1903 the number of cases treated was 7,970, including 319 in-patients, and 122 operations were performed. The Government contribution was Rs. 950, while the District cess fund granted Rs. 900, and Rs. 300 was subscribed by the public. The balance of the cost was borne by the municipality.

Vaccination is compulsory within municipal limits. In 1903-4 the number of persons successfully vaccinated was 7,215, representing 43 per 1,000 of population.

[Maung Pan Hla, Settleiiicnt Report (1900).]

Personal tools