Among the many responses to the unconscionable blockading of humanitarian assistance to victims of the cyclone that swept through Burma on May 10, perhaps the strangest, if not the most offensive, have been claims that journalists, diplomats and aid workers have exaggerated the death toll.
These sorts of charges invariably come up when large numbers of people are killed, disappeared or displaced. They have their origins sometimes in misunderstanding of what really goes on during crises of this sort, sometimes in enmity towards human rights or humanitarian goals. In any case, that they have come up again in the wretched aftermath of Cyclone Nargis is particularly odd.
Take an article that David Rieff wrote for the Los Angeles Times (Save us from the rescuers, May 18). For Rieff, exaggerated reports are all about numbers. And not just high numbers for that matter, but pretty much any numbers. If the numbers jump up suddenly, he reasons, they’re suspect. But even if they don’t, they’re still suspect, because those who make them up are prone to hyperbole and have vested interests.
What Rieff omits is that those ultimately responsible for the making of numbers, those who are most prone to hyperbole and those with the biggest vested interests are not the relief agencies against whom he rails or their proponents but the national authorities who obstruct the making of accurate tallies with which to obtain a better picture of what needs to be done. Continue reading
Posted in Burma, dictatorship, extrajudicial killing, human rights, journalism, Myanmar, other countries, poverty, UPI
Tagged 65 Massacre, cyclone, Cyclone Nargis, David Rieff, Democratic Voice of Burma, DVB, Indonesia, LA Times, Los Angeles Times, Mizzima, Nargis, Rieff, Save us from the rescuers, Thailand, The Irrawaddy, war on drugs
(Latest roundup of some news on Cyclone Nargis in Burmese language media)
There have been a few reports about corpses of cyclone victims found with ears and fingers cut off, apparently to take the jewelry. Now the Yoma 3 News Service has alleged that soldiers of Infantry Division 66 are among those responsible. According to an eyewitness from Bogalay who spoke by phone,
“Division 66 officers and soldiers are removing everything from the bodies of the dead. If wearing bracelets, they’re cutting off the hands.”
The witness also accused the troops of refusing to allow relatives of victims from Kyachaung, Satkyun, Ayardan and Padekaw villages from meeting with their loved ones, and said that as they had sold drinking water that was sent for the survivors in those places from a betel nut shop at the Irrawaddy Pier for 500 Kyat (about 45 US cents) per bottle, so the survivors have been drinking any water that they could find.
Meanwhile, the efforts of private citizens have continued to keep people alive where officialdom has been busy apparently trying to do the opposite. According to a doctor who visited Twente who also spoke to Yoma 3,
“The villages that we reached don’t even have food. They’ve made huts to stay in out of old thatch. It’s an unhappy scene. Even in the places so near to Rangoon sufficient aid has still not arrived. They’re all expecting it. Nobody had come. As there’s water in the hand pump wells that’s not such a worry but there’s quite a rice problem.”
In Twente section 8 bore the brunt of the storm and was destroyed, while about 90 per of the buildings in the township suffered damage. At present there are five temporary sites set up to house people at monasteries and schools. Zinc roofing is being sold for 4900 Kyat (about US$4) per sheet, not given out.
Around Twente town there are 95 village tracts all of which have suffered damage and are in need of help, the doctor said. At Panhlaing the sluice gates are shut and there is an outbreak of disease. In some villages monasteries are housing and feeding people but have enough food supplies for only three or four days.
Similar conditions are reported in Htanmanaing, of Kawhmu Township, Rangoon, which was hit hard by the storm too. Of the 540 houses there before, only ten are still intact. However, as the water supply there also was destroyed, children are drinking from dirty water sources and getting stomach ailments. There are no medicines for them when they become sick, a resident said to Yoma 3. As the people there too had received no help so far, a villager had husked the remainder of his paddy stock (being kept for planting next season) and distributed it to the hungry. Continue reading
Posted in Burma, dictatorship, human rights, military, Myanmar, poverty
Tagged Bogalay, cyclone, Cyclone Nargis, Democratic Voice of Burma, Division 66, DVB, ID 66, Infantry Division 66, Kawhmu, Labutta, Laputta, Mandalay, Nargis, Twente, Union Solidarity and Development Association, USDA, Yoma 3
(Latest update of Burmese language reports on Cyclone Nargis)
One of the areas worst affected by the cyclone was Laputta, in the Irrawaddy Delta. A resident of the township speaking to Yoma 3 News (Thailand) said that,
“The township has 16 village tracts. There are at least five villages per tract, and over 200 villages in total. People coming from the villages said that out of these villagers, for every ten, only around three are alive.”
According to Yoma 3 sources, although the government has put the official death toll in Laputta at over a thousand it is in fact much higher than that and to date no help has arrived.
A villager who came into town said
“There’s work on the Thingangyi-Laputta Road but cars can’t travel it yet. Along every road, the Kyarnikan village roads, whatever road, there are so many dead they’re uncountable. For this reason many more in the villages could die. My mother, father, brothers and sisters are all dead. I can’t do anything. I’m left all alone.” Continue reading
Posted in Burma, disappearance, human rights, Myanmar, poverty
Tagged Ayeyarwaddy, cyclone, Cyclone Nargis, Democratic Voice of Burma, DVB, Irrawaddy, Labutta, Laputta, Nargis, Pazundaung, Rangoon, tsunami, Yangon, Yoma 3