Sea-level farmlands like these have not recovered from Cyclone Nargis
A week ago the United Nations humanitarian news agency ran a telling interview with a survivor of Cyclone Nargis, the storm that devastated Burma in May.
The interviewee, a 62-year-old farmer whose daughter-in-law and granddaughter were killed in the cyclone, said that although after the disaster some monks gave her paddy seed with which to replant her fields, the crop has failed.
“Even with fertilizer, the plants simply didn’t take or died,” Aye Yin told a reporter from the IRIN news service. “Some say it’s because of the salt water that inundated much of our fields. I don’t know. In any case, it doesn’t matter now.”
To get a little income, her grandson now collects empty water bottles from the streets and sells them to recyclers. The family has also received some assistance from the World Food Programme, but Aye Yin says that it isn’t enough.
“Now all we worry about is how we will survive the coming months,” she said. “I pray we won’t starve to death.”
She is going to have to pray harder. In November, the WFP is set to scale back its work in Burma’s delta, from general to “targeted” distributing of rice. Continue reading
Posted in Burma, dictatorship, economy, human rights, Myanmar, poverty, UN, UPI
Tagged Ayeyarwaddy, Cyclone Nargis, FAO, Food and Agriculture Organisation, IRIN, Irrawaddy, Nargis, Naypyidaw, WFP, World Food Programme, Zargana, Zarganar
On the night of June 4, a group of police officers came to a house in suburban Rangoon, searched it and took away one of the occupants. But the person they took is not a wanted robber, murderer or escapee. He is a comedian.
Although Zarganar (pictured above at left, with fellow actor and social activist Kyaw Thu) is famous in Burma for his antics on stage and screen, he has not been joking much lately. Instead, he has been at the front of local efforts to get relief to where it has been needed most since Cyclone Nargis swept through his country a month ago.
Zarganar, whose adopted name means “pincers”, has thrown everything into the relief effort, organising hundreds of volunteers in dozens of villages to help in giving out food, water, clothes and other basic necessities to thousands of people.
His sister told Voice of America that he had sold his and his wife’s mobile phones to use the money for the work, and that as the monsoon is setting in they had just purchased seeds to distribute in order that villagers who have nothing to plant might at least grow vegetables and stave off hunger.
He has also been a vocal critic of the government response to the cyclone, constantly pointing to the shortfalls in assistance and needs of survivors.
“The odor [of death] sticks with us when we come back from the villages,” Zarganar told The Irrawaddy news service on June 2, a full month after the cyclone struck. Continue reading
Posted in Burma, constitution, dictatorship, human rights, Myanmar, police, poverty, protest, rule of law, UPI
Tagged Cyclone Nargis, Nargis, Rangoon, The Irrawaddy, VOA, Voice of America, Yangon, Zargana, Zarganar
A group of schoolchildren in Burma were recently given a lesson on the inanity of their government and its officialdom. According to a report by the Thailand-based Yoma 3 news group, representatives of the Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association came on June 6 to distribute free books to students at a middle school in Shwepyithar, an industrial area among Rangoon’s outskirts. They posed for photographs on the school grounds with the chairman of the local council, the books and the children. When done, they took the books back and left the children with nothing.
This little event speaks volumes about how dictatorship debilitates society. Whereas all ceremony is in part about something being seen to be done, it is in most places also about something actually being done: the awarding of a prize, the giving of a donation, the opening of an edifice. But in Burma, whether or not something is actually done has long since ceased to be of primary importance. What matters above all is the affirmation that it has been done, through endless public performances choreographed to demonstrate the benevolence of the state and wisdom of its agents, irrespective of reality.
Posted in army, Burma, dictatorship, human rights, military, Myanmar, UPI
Tagged Beggars' Convention, MMCWA, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association, Rangoon, Shwepyithar, Yangon, Yoma 3, YouTube, Zarganar