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Today, the state's 4 million inhabitants are primarily of Rakhaing ethnic origin. Most of these people live in rural areas and make a living from sustenance farming and fishing. The region benefits from a wealth of natural resources from its ancient forests, bountiful ocean and fertile plains. The state is divided into five districts, Sitetway (Sittwe), Maungdaw, Buthidaung, Kyaukphru and Thandway, which are then divided into 17 townships. Within these townships there are a total of 1,164 village tracts.
The state capital is Sitetway in Sitetway district, traditionally known as Akyab, and has an estimated population of 350,000. It is situated on the Bay of Bengal on an estuarial island at the convergence of the Kaladan, Laymro and Mayu rivers, surrounded by fertile land. The city grew significantly during the British colonial era when it was a very important commercial town, a centre for imports and exports, especially rice.
The modern socioeconomics of Arakan State can be largely characterised by an extreme lack of development. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) figures from June 2007 found that only 41% of the state's inhabitants had sustainable access to improved water, while a mere 36% had sustainable access to improved sanitation. These figures ranked the state lowest and second lowest respectively when compared with Burma's other states and divisions. The same study also showed that Arakan State ranked lowest and second lowest for its primary school enrollment rate and young adult literacy level, respectively. At the same time, the unemployment rate of 15-24 year olds was highest in the country, at just over 11%.
The large majority of Arakan State's inhabitants live in rural areas. These people make a living from fishing and farming and rely heavily on the use of rivers for both. In addition to important fish stocks in the ocean, local populations get much of their food from these rivers and their tributaries. Furthermore, over 85 % of Arakan State's cultivated farmland (primarily paddy) is located along their valleys – two of the few large flat areas in the region. Due to a lack of good roads, the trade of both fish and agricultural products in the region is dependent on the use of waterways.
Throughout its history, Arakan has been largely reliant on agriculture, predominantly the production of rice. In fact, the area is one of Burma's two main rice-producing regions, along with the Irrawaddy Delta. Since Burma's first coup d'état rice production industry has been manipulated by the authorities to benefit the powerful and wealthy military. The majority of profits made from farming and fishing go straight into the hands of the government, funding further military expansion and fuelling more human rights abuses, while millions of workers and people live in extreme poverty.
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