May 21, 2008 (DVB)–The Burmese authorities have been forcing cyclone victims to return to their villages and replacing them with paid "fake refugees", according to a private donor who recently returned from Bogalay.
The donor said the refugees had been ordered to return to the villages immediately.
“The situation is the same in Laputta, Bogalay and other areas of Irrawaddy division, and in Kunchangone – people have pleaded in tears but to no avail,” she said.
“[The authorities] want to show the international community that there are no refugees here.”
The donor said they wanted the refugees out in time for United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the area.
“They are replacing them with fake refugees and when people do interviews, they let them see these people,” she said.
“I saw them myself. They are paid at a rate of 1500 a day. They admitted to me that they are pretending to be refugees because they get the money.”
The donor said that if the refugees returned to their villages, they would not have access to any assistance.
“The real refugees’ children and parents are dead,” the donor said.
“They are being forced to return to the village when they are in a very fragile mental state, and when they are in their villages they don’t get the international aid and private donors like us,” she said.
“I am still feeling very distressed and broken-hearted for them.”
Another donor said the situation was similar in Kyauktan in Rangoon division.
“They are keeping some 400 people who had been helped for show on the route,” he said.
“They only reached that area [with assistance], not the other areas. Now they are being forcibly relocated.”
Reporting by Htet Yazar