Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Rumors of New Catastrophe Sweep Rangoon

The Irrawaddy News

Now all hope of humanitarian intervention in Burma’s cyclone-devastated regions has vanished, rumors of another imminent natural catastrophe are sweeping Rangoon.

In the weeks following the cyclone, as US, British and French ships loaded with aid stood ready in international waters off Burma, many were certain that the three Western powers would decide to launch unilateral relief operations. Rumors spread widely that help was on its way.

Those rumors came to nothing. Now, others have replaced them. The most fanciful relates that three senior monks, Myaungmya Sayadaw, Bassein Sayadaw and Hlaing Tharyar Sayadaw, dreamt that another catastrophe, either another big storm or an earthquake, would strike the country, and that floodwater would reach Rangoon’s revered Shwedagon Pagoda.

A nurse at Rangoon Western Hospital said: “Everyone is talking with fear about another big storm.”

One resident said the rumor was causing a lot of uncertainty in Rangoon, where memories of last month’s cyclone were still vivid.

Shortly after the cyclone hit on May 2, the regime’s mouthpiece, The New Light of Myanmar, accused unnamed Western countries of being responsible for the rumors then circulating within Burma.

Dr Than Tun, the late influential historian and outspoken critic of the military junta, once wrote that Burmese oral history related that Sri Ksetra, an early Burmese capital, fell when rumors caused mass panic and hysteria.

The current rumors have also been fuelled by official forecasts of squalls in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal, with rain and winds reaching 50 miles (80 kilometers) an hour along the Mon and Tenasserim coasts.

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