(Latest roundup of some Burmese language reports following Cyclone Nargis
As the military regime in Burma continues to obstruct relief efforts from abroad, and especially hamper foreign staff of aid groups (see the latest news about this on The Irrawaddy) most of the news in Burmese language reports has been about the efforts of fellow citizens to help the victims of the disaster, the obstacles that government officials are also putting in their paths, and the lack of help getting through to some areas.
According to Yoma 3 News, monks in Mandalay who have been collecting items and money to donate to victims have been asked by the authorities there to donate through official channels, but have refused. A monk told Yoma 3 that
“We are collecting things at the Mandalay Maha Gandharyone Monastery. About four days back the divisional head came to the monastery and said to give them the things; that they would be delivered through them. The Gandharyone temple didn’t accept this.”
The items collected at the temple include clothes, clean water and rice. One lot of items had already been sent successfully and the temple is now preparing for a second round.
The efforts of Kyaw Thu’s social welfare group and comedian Zarganar together with some prominent actors and others have also been reported on.
However, there are still seriously affected areas where no aid has been received eleven days after the cyclone. According to the New Era Journal, in Kunchangone, which is only some 30 miles from Rangoon, virtually no help has arrived and there is now an outbreak of cholera.
An eyewitness from a group of private citizens who went to the riverside area about three miles from the town, including villages Kyunchaung, Kayan, Tawkyi, Tawkayan and Thonehkwa, told the journal that
“It’s totally demolished. Nothing can be done with the houses that are lying flattened on the ground. People are sitting around nearby looking. Nothing has arrived yet for rebuilding the rooves. No food or medicine has arrived yet. The corpses are just lined up along a steep hillside. Dead people, dead cows, dead buffaloes, none of the dead can be cleared away. There’s quite a stink. Up to yesterday there were clearly yet more washed up further along the riverbank.”
Theirs was the first group to get through to these villages with any type of help and there were cholera cases already in about seven households that they saw, including among children, but no medicines to be had. The seawater had flooded drinking water supplies and fields and around 4000 people there are homeless and some 300 have died so far.
On their way into the area they were stopped at a checkpoint and the vehicles they were travelling in checked for foreigners who would be prohibited entry, they were told.
The eyewitness added that wherever they went in the affected areas they met people shouting and crying for food and water. In some places where the government had made an official distribution, in the nine days since the cyclone there had only been two distributions of two condensed milk tins of rice for an entire family.
There is also a report on Kunchangone in English on DVB.
New Era reports too that people living in Hlaingthayar on the outskirts of Rangoon have not been able to rebuild their houses because they haven’t yet been given any materials even though the rains have started again. A resident of section 18 in the township said that
“At night it rained here. People who haven’t been able to rebuild their houses sleeping on embankments had to take shelter in vendors’ stalls.”
Sections 18, 19 and 20 were the worst affected parts of Hlaingthayar and Shwelinpan section had not long ago been hit by fire also. These sections house workers employed in the nearby industrial areas as well as other parts of the city. A worker staying in Ye-okkan section said that
“Work has been suspended. Food prices are rising. Without income we are hoping for handouts. If they cook rice soup, we go and drink it. If they serve rice then we go and eat it. That’s how it is. There’s been absolutely no foreign aid reach the people.”
The section council has been accused of selling materials sent for use for cyclone victims, and also telling people who want sheets of zinc for roofing that they have to give 500 Kyat per sheet (around 40 US cents) just to apply, although no sheets have so far been distributed. A resident of section 8 said that after General Thein Sein, the prime minister, came and gave a few bags of rice and other provisions the Union Solidarity and Development Association and Swan-arshin gangs took everything away. The same thing happened when some actors and actresses also came to donate.
In Bogalay too officials have been selling sheets of zinc at 4000 Kyat per piece, VOA says, and foreign aid is not reaching the affected people but has been kept in warehouses and other buildings. (See also the report on officials skimming aid at The Irrawaddy an another on DVB about theft by officials in Rangoon which is backed by similar reports in Burmese such as this on VOA concerning the delivery of US aid.) For this reason the people in Irrawaddy Division and elsewhere are relying heavily on donors coming to their aid from other parts of the country, including private citizens and some companies that have brought supplies and distributed them from local buildings, one local resident said. When asked if the bodies shown on internet websites floating in the water had since been cleared by the authorities,
“They haven’t collected any of the corpses. They are bobbing along with the tides. Even today they can still be seen near the Daw Tin Mya bridge, the monastery. The arms and so on of some are said to be decomposing. Boats are going around them. I asked some people coming from the countryside, they said that the villagers are burying the corpses left in the fields after the water’s receded. They’re digging pits and burying them.”