Burmese Officials Skimming Cyclone Aid


By VIOLET CHO Monday, May 12, 2008

Burmese military officers and village heads are stealing relief supplies in many areas following Cyclone Nargis, according to Rangoon sources.

Sardines, clothe, high energy biscuits and other relief aid sent to the survivors of the cyclone are being sold at markets, shops and even teashops, said a cyclone survivor..

Burmese line up to receive free rice on the outskirts of Rangoon on Monday. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, in Kawhmu, southwest of Rangoon Division, cyclone victims still have not received any relief aid. A Kawhmu resident, now in Rangoon, told the The Irrawaddy that “local officers and our villager headman only distributed about 30 percent of the aid to the people, and they kept 70 percent.”Such reports underscore the importance of the dispute over the past week between the military regime and international relief agencies, who say they must have their own staff on the ground to oversea aid distribution. However, the junta is still saying it will not let foreign aid workers into Burma and will handle aid distribution itself.

According to a Rangoon-based journalist, citizens are not allowed to deliver aid supplies themselves and must give their donations to members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association or local firefighters.

“People who collect the relief supplies are using the items and eating food that is meant for survivors,” he said.

Rangoon children line up to receive rice after Cyclone Nargis.
(Photo: AP)

A Rangoon resident said, “The donations from the authorities are just for propaganda and to show off. The authorities took relief supplies back with them after they shot video in Hlaing Tharyar and Shwe Pyi Thar townships.”A local World Vision office in Thanlyin Township in Rangoon asked for permission from local authorities to hand out rice, and was told to donate 10 bags of rice to the authorities to be able to give rice to the people, said a staff member of World Vision.

Meanwhile, the authorities have allowed some wealthy citizens and movie stars to pass out aid, but prevented some private citizens for political reasons.

One example, Kyaw Thu, a movie star and well-known supporter of the demonstrations led by monks in September of last year, was harassed by thugs carrying knives and clubs when he tried to distribute rice to people in Thanlyin Thowship in Rangoon.

Kyaw Thu is also chairman of a social welfare association, the Free Funeral Services Society, which helps people who can not afford funerals for their family members.

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