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.

Burma Crisis – Day 9

The BBC reported today:

The official death toll has risen to almost 32,000, with close to another 30,000 missing.

But aid agencies fear 1.5m could die if help does not come, and estimate that 100,000 have already perished.

An official from Save the Children in Burma told the BBC that about half the people affected by the cyclone were receiving help.

This is quickly turning in genocidal proportions.  It’s time for China to stop protecting the Burmese military and for the rest of the world to help the hundreds of thousands who are suffering.

From the US Campaign for Burma:

France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner (a founder of Doctors Without Borders) proposed a solution to this problem. He urged the UN Security Council — the only body at the UN that can pass binding resolutions, to take action that would allow the international community to send aid to Burma whether the Burmese regime likes it or not.

And when France thinks the best solution is an invasion it must be a desperate scene.

The Alliance of Burmese Monks and Student Activists and opponents to the regime have issued this statement (and have put their lives at risk in so doing):

Joint Statement of All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and All Burma Federation of Student Unions
May 9, 2008

The Military Junta’s Sham Constitution Rejected
International Humanitarian Intervention Requested

(1) It is obvious that the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), official name of the military junta that has ruled the country of Burma illegally for many years with arms and threats, oppresses and kills the people of Burma who demand democracy and human rights peacefully, by using not only its military power, but also natural disaster.

(2) Knowing in advance that the dangerous and strong Cyclone Nargis was coming, the military junta failed to provide sufficient warning and suggest preparation to the people of Burma. Hence, when Cyclone Nargis attacked, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions became homeless in states and divisions of Rangoon, Bago (Pegu), Irrawaddy, Karen and Mon. If there were sufficient warnings, serious preparations and systematic evacuations earlier, the number of deaths and damages would be much less.

(3) In the aftermath of the Cyclone attack, the military junta continues to not provide sufficient assistance to the victims. People are facing the potential danger of more and more deaths because of the junta’s inability to remove the rotted bodies quickly, a lack of drinking water and food, and impending deadly diseases. However, we are witnessing sadly that the military junta does not help the victims effectively and it even blocks assistance generously offered by the international community.

(4) While nearly half of the total population in Burma is suffering through this national tragedy, instead of putting all resources toward saving the lives of the victims, the military junta is concentrating on legalizing military rule in Burma forever through a sham constitutional referendum, scheduled for tomorrow, May 10, 2008.

(5) Therefore, we would like to urge the people of Burma, from all walks of life, to object to the military junta, which rules the country against the will of the people, neglects the welfare of the people and focuses only on holding on to its power, by marking a (X) mark on the ballot paper decisively in the referendum.

(6) To save thousands of lives before it’s too late, we would like to urge the United Nations and foreign governments to intervene in Burma immediately to provide humanitarian and relief assistance directly to the people of Burma, without waiting for the permission of the military junta, with a decision made by the UN Security Council or individual country.

All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and All Burma Federation of Student Unions