Tag Archives: Labutta

Steal big, steal little

(Latest roundup of some Burmese language news reports on Cyclone Nargis)

(ลักเล็ก ขโมยใหญ่)

International groups in Burma are reportedly acknowledging that the army is “diverting” or “pilfering” aid (euphemisms for thieving) to Cyclone Nargis victims but are declining to give details for fear that they will be locked out completely.

Much of the concern is rightly with the army stealing big at the top end of the chain. But there will be theft at every level and among all agencies. An article by Yoma 3 has an example of stealing little in Kyimyindaing, just across the river from Rangoon, where village council officials are allegedly taking relief supplies being sent for homeless villagers. According to one,

“On the 14th, there was donating through the Red Cross for refugees at Dalechaung village. When the donors were present, there were 17 mosquito nets, yet when given by raffle to the villagers there were only 10. Where’d the other seven go? When the villagers investigated they found that the three-village chairman U Kyaw Soe took two, and fire brigade chief Aung Min, Tin Oo of USDA, then fireman Sein Hlaing took one each. The other [two] couldn’t be located.”

According to the villager, U Kyaw Soe is refusing to allow aid to be distributed to the villagers from outside without his involvement. A donor told Yoma 3 that 44 houses in Dalechaung were washed away as the river rose during the storm. The others are without rooves and the villagers are staying in an old rice warehouse but have been told that they will be thrown out. Maybe they have to go and vote.

To be sure, under the circumstances this is a very small theft, and the families of the officials may themselves be in need, but as this sort of behaviour will be repeated everywhere, the question for international aid groups is, if 10 out of 17 items delivered to the local level (from an unknown number originally) reach the people who really need them, is that enough? Continue reading

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Corpse robbers and angry villagers

(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

Disease spreading in Laputta & Bogalay

(Update on Burmese language news reports after Cyclone Nargis)

Fears that delays in delivering aid to cyclone survivors could result in widespread illness and a second wave of deaths are now being realised.

According to the Yoma 3 News Service (Thailand), diarrhoea is spreading among the cyclone victims in Bogalay due to a lack of adequate assistance to a region still covered with decomposing corpses over a week after the cyclone. That report says that there are around 4000 refugees still in Bogalay town and around 100 survivors are continuing to arrive from surrounding villages each day. A report from RFA, however, says that there are three sites in Bogalay each housing 8-10,000 people.

In Laputta, children have reportedly started dying from cholera due to the lack of clean drinking water. Ma Win, a resident of ward 10 in the town told Yoma 3 by phone that

“We’ve received no aid at all. At this moment there are food problems and especially water problems. When it rains we are getting rain water. Now as all the drinking water sources are destroyed, children have been getting diarrhoea and from that cholera has broken out and more than a few children have died.”

As thousands of refugees have come into Laputta town from surrounding villages, the monasteries and hospitals are stretched and some have also been put into houses.

Despite the claims of government media that officials are responding promptly, people in Laputta are getting no help, Ma Win insisted: Continue reading

Kindness of fellow citizens saves cyclone victims

(Update of some Burmese language reports of Cyclone Nargis’ aftermath)

In some seriously cyclone-damaged areas of the Irrawaddy Division, authorities have begun moving homeless survivors a few at a time to towns that escaped the eye of the storm, but have not prepared properly for them once they get there (while simultaneously blocking a massive waiting international aid effort, as has been reported across the international news).

According to the Yoma 3 News Service (Thailand), starting from May 8 survivors in Laputta, Bogalay, Mawkyun (Mawlamyaing Island) and Pyapon have been getting moved by boat in small groups to intact towns in other parts of the delta. In Bogalay, the township officials arranged for the relocating of 420 people to Wakema and have housed them in schools there. In total, 3000 people are to be put up in the market ward primary school, high school nos. 1 and 2, as well as Mintharkyi and U Boe Kyi schools.

However, one of the local residents told Yoma 3 by phone that,

“The authorities said that a thousand sacks of rice and four drums of oil are on their way. In the meantime, without being asked the locals, shopkeepers, townsfolk are together feeding them fried rice noodles and so on.”

Similarly, despite hundreds of refugees coming to Kyonemange, the township council chairman was still more interested in preparing for the May 10 constitutional referendum that the regime has insisted will go ahead despite international protest: Continue reading

Where are Burma’s neighbours?

In the days since Cyclone Nargis passed through Burma on May 2 and 3, bringing a tidal surge with it to the delta region that has literally swept away hundreds of villages, it has become painfully obvious that the country’s government is completely unable to deal with what has happened.

In the immediate aftermath of the storm, local residents in somewhat affected areas, including Rangoon, banded together to do everything from clearing roads to distributing emergency supplies of water and food. In many rural areas, monks have taken charge as thousands of people have converged on monasteries, which are among the sturdiest buildings and which often have stockpiles of donated wood, food and other necessities.

The lack of any official presence in these parts has been striking in a country where government agents, in and out of uniform, are normally omnipresent. But the absurdity, ineptitude and persistent greed that characterize so much administrative conduct in Burma have in some areas become most apparent after soldiers, police and bureaucrats have finally turned up.

In one part of Rangoon, a fistfight reportedly broke out when outraged locals saw that water tankers were delivering supplies to the homes of council members and military officers but not to anyone else.

At Pazundaung, a unit of soldiers went to nearby houses to ask for machetes with which to cut fallen trees. Their commander demanded a car to oversee his men and shopkeepers were called upon to give chains with which to drag timber from the road.

In the worst affected areas, flattened villages and ruined crops are still littered with bodies and not a single person has turned up to assist. Many places, such as Laputta, remain partly submerged and the numbers of the dead and missing not yet entered into the daily rising tallies.

So where are Burma’s neighbors? Not long after the storm struck, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s secretary-general, the former foreign minister of Thailand, Surin Pitsuwan, called on the other nine member states to give generously, and hoped the same of its partners, which include heavyweights China, South Korea and Japan. (See news of his latest statement.)

His appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Continue reading

Hospitals turning away patients

(Update of some Burmese language reports on Cyclone Nargis’ aftermath)

Hospitals in Rangoon are being forced to turn away patients because of a lack of electricity and water. According to an employee at the general hospital (pictured above, in happier times), who spoke to Thailand-based Yoma 3 News by phone,

“There are only two power lines. The radiotherapy department had to discharge 30 patients because it has no electricity. Because of transport problems patients can’t get to the outpatients department (either).”

On last Sunday a pregnant woman going in to labour was refused admission to the emergency department and referred to the SSC special medical centre. Because the centre had no water the patient had to buy bottled water outside and give it in order to get treated. Continue reading

“Only three in ten are alive”

(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