Friday, 16 May 2008

Deep wounds and broken bones, but no medical aid

THANN LITE, Burma: Something hard and heavy slammed into Ko Kyaw Win's leg as he clung to a coconut tree, fighting for his life against hurricane-force winds and a surging torrent strong enough to bend steel.

The object swirling in the six-metre swell smashed a hole in the fisherman's right shin. At the time, it was the least of his worries.

Somehow, the 45-year-old hugged the tree-top long enough to remain among the living, surviving on coconut milk for five days. But after beating bad odds, Ko Kyaw Win fears a new fight: his festering leg wound is infected, and no medical supplies remain in his Irrawaddy delta village.

He is one of thousands of survivors across southern Burma waiting for medical care. Since the cyclone on May 3, no doctor has visited the seven villages where nurse U Tin Hling is the only trained medical worker. He ran out of medicine, bandages and his meagre medical supplies days ago.

Dozens of others in this small village and six more nearby need urgent medical help, including 18-month-old Ma Pyi Pyi Po, whose right eye is swollen half-shut. There are villagers with infected wounds, deep cuts from flying corrugated sheets and other debris and broken bones that have not been set properly.

The only treatment Ko Kyaw Win received for his raw, red leg wound, which throbs with pain, is a few dabs of rubbing alcohol to clean out some of the dirt in the torn flesh.

The nurse gave him a few tablets of what he called metro, short for metronidazole. U Tin Hling said the drug is a painkiller. Actually, it is for dysentery, vaginitis, several other infections and gum disease. It is the only medicine the nurse has got in emergency aid from the military: two boxes, 4600 tablets. They are all gone.


New storm lashes cyclone-hit Burma

By Aung Hla Tun in Rangoon - Newscom

TORRENTIAL tropical downpours lashed Burma's Irrawaddy delta today, deepening the misery of an estimated 2.5 million destitute survivors of Cyclone Nargis and further hampering aid efforts.

Despite the latest storm, which is likely to turn already damaged roads to mud in the swamp-covered region, Burma's ruling generals insist their relief operations are running smoothly.

They issued an edict in state-run newspapers today saying legal action would be taken against anybody found hoarding or selling relief supplies, amid rumours of local military units expropriating trucks of food, blankets and water.

If emergency supplies do not get through in much greater quantities, foreign governments and aid groups say starvation and disease are very real threats.

The European Union's top aid official met ministers Rangoon yesterday and urged them to admit foreign aid workers and essential equipment to prevent the death toll, which the Red Cross says could be as high as 128,000, from going any higher.

The trip, like so many others before it, yielded no results.

"Relations between Myanmar and the international community are difficult," Louis Michel said.

"But that is not my problem. The time is not for political discussion. It's time to deliver aid to save lives."

Earlier, the generals signalled they would not budge on their position of limiting foreign access to the delta, fearful that it might loosen their vice-like grip on power.

"We have already finished our first phase of emergency relief. We are going onto the second phase, the rebuilding stage," state television quoted Prime Minister Thein Sein as telling his Thai counterpart this week.

Civilians shed tears at referendum results

By Hseng Khio Fah
Shan News

Some civilians in Muse, northern Shan State, had wept upon hearing results on the junta drafted charter referendum which was held on 10 May, according to local sources.

While holding the referendum, authorities had placed many soldiers around the polling stations. The soldiers wore civilian clothes with guns under their rain coats and watched people voting from a convenient distance. Among the referendum commissioners were officials from Special Bureau, Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), and Civil Services.

“People were afraid of the military’s threats and punishments. Most of them are illiterate and lack human right awareness. Moreover, they are not interested in the junta drafted charter because of the need to struggle for their livelihood. That’s why the junta got a lot of support,” said a civilian in Muse.

“Another reason they (authorities) got many Yes votes was because of support from those temporary ID card holders. Before the referendum, the junta had made temporary ID cards for Chinese citizens to support their drafted charter,” a villager said.

“Some people cried when they knew that there were many Yes votes to the referendum. We just have to continue being their slaves forever,” he added.

According to the report of the referendum commission, the junta won 72 % of Yes votes in Muse not including surrounding areas and 22 % of No votes. In contrast, there were 17,617 (66.2 %) No votes, 8,030 (30.2 %) Yes votes and 951(3.6 %) invalid votes from 18 polling stations in Namkham township.

On 14 May, Kutkhai Military Commander San Shwe Tha along with Hopang based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 143, Commander Lt-Col Aung Myo visited to Namkham to conduct investigations on No votes, according to a source.

LIB 143 will set up a camp in Kunhai village tract, north of Namkham, as a security force, according to a villager.

Junta media announced yesterday that 99 % of eligible turned up for the referendum and 92.4 % had voted in support of the draft.

Referendum results slammed by ceasefire groups

Shan News

“Impossible” was the word used by a senior member of the National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS) in response to the claim made by Burma’s rulers yesterday of the overwhelming public support given to the military-drawn draft constitution on May 10.

“How can that be when, in most cases, only a small number of people had the opportunity to vote?” he asked rhetorically.

According to official figures 99.07% of eligible voters had turned out, out of which 92.4% had voted in favor of the draft.

The NDAA-ESS, based in Mongla, 87km northeast of Kengtung on the Sino-Burma border, had set up 3 polling stations in areas under its sway: at Mongla, Saleu and Nampan. “None of our members went to vote,” he said, “and only people who live near the polling stations turned up. And most of them, to my knowledge, just put crosses (standing for disapproval) in their ballot papers.”

A commander of one of the 4 brigades of Shan State Army (SSA) North, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed. “The authorities did not set up a polling station for Namlap tract (Tangyan township, Lashio district, northern Shan State),” he wrote to SHAN yesterday. “Instead , the headman of Namlap tract was summoned to put 500 ticks for 500 voters in the ballot papers.”

He quoted a principal of a middle school who was appointed as a polling station official as saying, “We (referendum officials) had been threatened with a jail sentence plus fine, in the event that there are more crosses than ticks.”

He was “dead sure” that the draft charter would have been defeated if the referendum had strictly followed the rules of the civilized world. “There is not a single ceasefire group that has agreed to surrender their arms”, he said. “All the opposition politicians, both inside and outside prisons, and the Buddhist Sangha, both at home and abroad, are also against it. They will continue to be a fishbone in the throat (Shan expression meaning a barrier in the way) against the regime.”

Neither group however has issued any official statement to bolster the two officer’s views.

The draft charter’s Article 338 stipulates that all armed organizations must come under the command of the Tatmadaw (Armed Forces).

There are 13 major ceasefire groups in Burma with a combined strength of 42,000, according to a study made by the Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC).

Junta to expand logging fields in Northern Burma


There is nothing better that the Burmese military junta understands than raking in moolah, even if it means deforestation and massive damage to the ecology and environment. To the generals of the junta money is sweeter than honey.

The regime has worked out a scheme to bring in more revenue and has ordered the expansion of logging fields in northern Burma. The Burmese junta plans to construct a road from the Danai (Tanai) Township to Shingbwi Yang. The new logging fields will be located on the other side of Hkalung village which is near Shingbwi Yang, a source said.

The Burmese military authorities have asked Jadeland Myanmar Co., Ltd. to construct the road. Chinese road builders have arrived for construction work in Danai Township, a source added.

There are about 600 people living in the village. Last month, Chinese loggers arrived on the river bank of Hkalung Hka (Hkalung River) near Hkalung village, a villager in Hkalung said.

They were overseeing the logging fields and mapping the area. Sutdu Yup Zau Hkawng, Kachin business tycoon and owner of Jadeland Myanmar Co., Ltd. has also been allowed to log officially on 2,000 acres, a villager added.

The Forest Minister is expected to arrive in Hkalung village soon to monitor the expansion move and the Burmese Army is taking care of security around Hkalung village, a villager added.

All this when over 100,000 lives have been lost and two million have been rendered homeless after Cyclone Nargis lashed the country between May 1 and 2

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A Trickle of Aid Reaches Survivors

The Irrawaddy News

May 15, 2008 - International aid groups have sent hundreds of tons of emergency supplies to Burma’s cyclone victims, but local aid workers say no aid is reaching huge numbers of homeless in the Irrawaddy delta, 13 days after the devastation.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), it has dispatched more than 700 tons of rice, high-energy biscuits and beans to nearly 100,000 people (about 7 kg per person) in cyclone-affected areas in Burma. However, there are at least 1.5 million homeless, say officials.

Aye Kyu, a resident of Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy delta, said some nongovernmental organizations such as UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have begun relief operations there, setting up temporary shelters, mobile clinics and sanitation facilities.

However, the relief effort there is still insufficient for the 80,000 homeless from outlying areas who have sought shelter in Laputta, where many people still live in temporary shelters such as monasteries and schools or outdoors.

A local aid worker told The Irrawaddy that relief organizations are focusing on the delta’s two main towns, Bogalay and Laputta, and outlying villages are not a high priority at this time.

Some aid supplies continue to be stolen, misappropriated or hoarded by Burmese authorities, say aid workers.

Aye Kyu said rice and diesel fuel donated by international aid groups are being sold by local authorities in some areas.

“The authorities are demanding between 13,000 and 15,000 kyat (US $11.25 and $12.99) for one bag of rice and 10,000 kyat (US $8.66) for one gallon of diesel fuel,” said Aye Kyu.

Officials of Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said members purchased 1,000 towels on Wednesday to donate to survivors, but later discovered a World Food Programme stamp on the bags the towels were placed in.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said the towels were bought at Rangoon’s Mingalar market. “When I arrived home, I found the letters WFP (World Food Program) stamped on the bags, together with the flag of Japan and a message in English and Burmese (donated by the Japanese people).”

“I’m not sure that the towels are from the WFP, but those bags are now found in Mingalar Market,” he said.

A worker at Rangoon airport told a Rangoon-based Irrawaddy correspondent that generators and water-treatment equipment unloaded from a foreign aircraft had been sent to Naypyidaw, seat of the Burmese military regime.

Richard Horsey, a spokesman for UN humanitarian operations in Bangkok, said investigations into cases of misappropriated aid are now underway.

Because of geographical and logistical difficulties, he said supplies are not reaching survivors quickly enough, but “the ability to deliver aid is increasing everyday.”

“But, we are still at the level that not nearly enough aid is going in to meet the needs of the affected people. There are several problems. Large flooded areas, remote isolated populations and damaged infrastructure from the storm.”

More trucks and small boats are needed to transport food and supplies to the affected areas, he said.

“We need the whole range of logistical assistance, not just flights into Rangoon.” said Horsey.

On Wednesday, about 200 Burmesse military personnel unloaded relief supplies from aircraft at the Rangoon airport, mostly working by hand in the absence of forklift trucks and other heavy-lifting equipment.

The lack of proper equipment was creating a bottleneck, according to UN logistical staff.

Meanwhile, John Holmes, under secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, said food, water, medical supplies and shelter material are arriving in Burma in increasing quantities from UN agencies, the Red Cross, nongovernmental organizations and other donors.

“But the question is how much of that aid is getting to the affected areas and people,” said Holmes, in a statement released on Wednesday.

There are now 100 UN international staff in Burma. About 46 visas have been issued to nongovernmental aid organizations, according to the UN statement.

With heavy rain forecast later this week, aid officials fear there’s not enough warehouse space to protect the supplies beginning to flow into Rangoon.

Officially, the Burmese regime says 38,491 people died and 27,838 people are missing following the cyclone. The Red Cross estimates up to 127,990 died and up to 2.15 million people are have been severely affected.

Some cholera confirmed in cyclone-hit Myanmar

SOME cholera has been confirmed among survivors of Cyclone Nargis, but the number was in line with case levels in previous years in Myanmar, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

'We do have some confirmed cholera,' Ms Maureen Birmingham, acting WHO representative in Thailand, said of the hardest-hit Irrawaddy delta where cholera is endemic.

'We don't have an explosion of cholera. Thus far the rate of cholera is no greater than the background rate that we would be seeing in Myanmar during this season,' she told reporters on Friday.

A network was still being set up to monitor for diseases among 2.5 million people severely affected by the cyclone which tore through the delta two weeks ago, she said.

Diarrhoea, dysentery and skin infections have afflicted some cyclone refugees crammed into monasteries, schools and other temporary shelters after the devastating May 2 storm.

The first sign of cholera, which is spread by drinking contaminated dirty water, is 'rice water' diarrhoea leading to chronic dehydration and possibly death within a few hours.

Without treatment, it can spread rapidly through populations of displaced people and kill as many as one in two victims.

The WHO has sent emergency health kits to the devastated region and was providing bleach and chlorine tablets to treat dirty water.

Corpses are still rotting along the banks of the Irrawaddy river two weeks after the disaster which killed up to 128,000, but the WHO said they pose no risk to public health.

'There has never been a documented case of a post-natural disaster epidemic that could be traced to dead bodies,' the WHO said in a statement.

It said the peak danger period is between 10 days and one month after a natural disaster due to the heightened threat of unsafe food, dirty water and poor hygiene and sanitation in overcrowded shelters.

'It is how the survivors are managed, rather than how the dead are managed, that determines if and when an epidemic may occur,' the WHO said. -- REUTERS-ST

Local heroes step in to help cyclone victims

From shopkeepers handing out free rice porridge to medical students caring for the sick, ordinary people in Myanmar are stepping in to help cyclone victims as the military regime severely restricts international aid.

Taxi drivers, factory owners, college students, teachers and other Yangon residents _ many of whom lost their own homes _ are among those organizing grueling trips into the Irrawaddy delta, the hardest-hit region.

"They are true humanitarian heroes," said Bridget Gardner, International Red Cross representative in Myanmar, after touring an area where volunteers were giving first aid to the injured.

They are taking up collections at businesses and donating food, clothes and water. Some who are too poor to give money or supplies are offering their labor to help clear debris and rebuild villages leveled by the May 3 cyclone.

"We feel sympathetic to the cyclone victims and want to help them in our own way," said Daw Mya Win, who runs a small grocery in a northern Yangon suburb where many bamboo shanty houses were destroyed.

The 49-year-old woman cooks rice porridge every day to feed anyone who comes. She also sends pots of the thick viscous mixture of rice, water and seasonings to some of the thousands of homeless who have sought shelter in the country's Buddhist monasteries.

Others have taken refuge in Catholic churches where priests and nuns are caring for the hungry and homeless.

"We totally depend on private donations every day for our daily meals," said Aung Min, a 53-year-old man who has been staying at the Thaung Gyi monastery with his wife and three children since Cyclone Nargis struck.

More than 66,000 people are dead or missing, according to government figures, with fears the death toll will surpass 100,000, according to U.N. and Red Cross estimates. The U.N. says up to 2 million survivors are still in need of emergency aid. Many victims continue to struggle daily for food and clean water amid drenching rains and threats of disease.

The military junta has restricted most foreign aid workers from entering Myanmar, formerly called Burma. And most Westerners lucky enough to get visas have been confined to Yangon _ hours away from the most devastated areas deep in the Irrawaddy delta.

Even the grass-roots efforts by Myanmar volunteers face obstacles. Many are stopped at military checkpoints and told to leave their supplies for soldiers to distribute. Rather than risking the aid never reaching the people who need it, some turn back. Others try to negotiate by offering a portion of the goods in exchange for passage.

Zaw Htin, one of many volunteer medical students, returned from a frustrating trip Wednesday to one of the government refugee centers in the devastated delta town of Bogalay.

"I am so angry. They don't want us to stay and talk to people. (The authorities) want us to leave the supplies with them for distribution," she said.

"But how can I treat the injured if I can't talk to them? How do we administer medical care if we can't touch them, feel their pulse or give them advice?"

"Their courage is moving," said Tim Costello, president of World Vision-Australia, who was stuck in Yangon after the government denied him permission to visit the delta. "There's no doubt (the volunteers) have responded magnificently. There's effectively no help from the military."

Some international aid agencies are working through these webs themselves to keep their supplies moving and carrying out basic relief work, quickly training volunteers before dispatching them to the delta.

Burmese-run aid groups also are playing an integral role in organizing and distributing supplies to survivors, as are businessmen. Some have offered diesel at subsidized prices to volunteers traveling to the delta, while others donate rice, water and water purification equipment. One shipping company offered to hand over two boats for floating clinics.

Some Burmese volunteers unable to find cars or fuel were visiting hard-hit slums on the outskirts of Yangon. College students went door-to-door handing out a few pennies to families for rice and gave sweets to impoverished children. Members of a hiking team from Yangon University gathered donations to take to the delta.

"Since I don't have the means to provide cash or kind, I contribute labor by helping distribute relief goods," said Nyi Nyi, a 21-year-old university student. "Whenever we distribute rice and clothing, I can see the faces of the cyclone victims light up. It is very rewarding to see them smile."

After enduring decades of poverty and government oppression, Myanmar's people are known for their resilience, having learned to depend on each other from day to day _ especially in times of crisis.

"There's no question, people here are of Buddhist and Christian ethic and they have decided, 'We're just gonna do this,'" Costello said.

Fox News

UN: Most schools ravaged in Myanmar's cyclone zone

Children in Myanmar may be forced to attend school in relief camps and tents because 85 percent of the educational buildings have been destroyed or damaged in a cyclone-ravaged region, the U.N. said Wednesday.

With the school year slated to begin June 1, UNICEF said there is no time to rebuild the estimated 2,700 severely damaged primary schools used by 350,000 students or to replace the unknown numbers of teachers killed or missing following the storm.

Instead, the focus is on training volunteer teachers, providing as many as 300,000 school kits for affected students and setting up schools in temporary locations as soon as possible using tarps, tents and even bamboo.

"Children have been through a terrible tragedy and trauma," said Cliff Meyers, UNICEF's regional education adviser. "Research shows that getting back into a normal pattern represented by attending schools really helps them adjust to the tragedy and overcome the horrors they have been through."

The U.N. is hoping to reach the likes of Tin Soe, who this week was begging on the streets of Yangon with his grandmother. His family lost their home in the disaster.

"We are here to help mother make some money so we can eat," the child, Tin Soe, said softly. "We are hungry."

Asked if he thinks his school will be rebuilt before the school year begins, he scratched his head and said: "I don't know. I hope so. I miss my friends and my teachers."

Richard Bridle, another UNICEF official in Bangkok, said that getting children back to their classrooms is good for adults, too.

"It gives parents breathing space to think about things other than the immediate survival of their families," he said.

Guy Cave, deputy country director in Myanmar for the private aid group Save the Children, also supports the goal of setting up temporary schools as soon as possible.

But he said that doing so by June 1 would be difficult, given many areas still have "not been reached with food and water let alone school equipment."

"In many of these places, it will take longer than that to get up and running. It will be an enormous logistics challenge," Cave said.

The group received a boost Wednesday when the humanitarian organization founded by George Clooney and other "Ocean's Thirteen" stars announced it would donate $250,000 to help survivors in Myanmar. Not On Our Watch said it will provide an additional matching contribution of up to $250,000 for every dollar donated to its emergency relief fund for cyclone victims.

Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta, and the United Nations and the Red Cross have suggested the death toll is likely to exceed 100,000.

Children were especially hit hard. UNICEF estimating a third of those killed were young people, based largely on population data from the affected areas.

"If you are small, you are more likely to be killed than if you're big," said UNICEF's Bridle.

Reports from the delta tell of village upon village ruined by the storm waves. Scores of families were killed and heart-wrenching photos often show the bodies of children.

"Our figures in the camps show a lot of adults, but very few children and very few elderly," said CARE Australia's country director in Myanmar, Brian Agland. "In one village there were 500 survivors and they were all adults."

The crowded, makeshift shelters built by survivors have forced orphans and separated children to live alongside strangers, often in dark areas with little supervision.

UNICEF warned that those children could be at risk of human trafficking and even sexual abuse in chaotic refugee camps.

"We are really concerned about the risk of exploitation and sexual abuse," said Anne-Claire Dufay, chief of UNICEF's child protection section in Myanmar. "If they don't have private sleeping spaces, it could be an issue."

Dufay said Tuesday there had been one report of the attempted trafficking of a teenage storm survivor in the country's largest city, Yangon, but so far no confirmed reports of sexual abuse.

Similar concerns were expressed following the 2004 tsunami, but little evidence of such problems emerged.

To counter those fears and provide a safe environment for children, the United Nations and several non-governmental organizations have been setting up scores of youth centers, where the young can talk about their concerns in a safe environment and can play games, sing and study.

"It helps these children go through the process of grief and shock more quickly," said Laura Blank, a spokeswoman for World Vision, which is setting up 37 centers to serve up to 3,700 youngsters in and around Yangon.

"When the children have a chance ... to play and sing, you create an environment where they feel like it is OK for them to be kids again."

Fox News

US pushes for helicopters to ferry Myanmar relief

Myanmar's isolationist ruling junta is now allowing U.S. military cargo planes to regularly fly relief supplies into their largest city to provide aid to cyclone survivors.

But if the aid is to get out to the estimated 2 million people who need it most, Myanmar is going to have to make another big concession: letting the U.S. start flying helicopters directly into the hardest-hit areas and allowing boots on the ground.

So far, that is where the junta draws the line.

Myanmar, whose ruling military generals are intensely sensitive to what they see as outside meddling, has limited the U.S. military to the Yangon airport, where emergency supplies must be unloaded by hand.

Once the planes are unloaded, they are quickly sent back to their makeshift base in Utapao, in central Thailand east of Bangkok.

The U.S. military has flown 13 C-130 cargo planes loaded with 156.6 tons of aid into Yangon over the past four days. Five flights flew on Thursday, military officials said, and another eight were expected to take off Friday.

The C-130s have brought in much-needed supplies including water, mosquito nets, blankets, plastic sheets and hygiene kits. But aid groups say the airport soon will have more supplies than it will be able to handle, meaning bottlenecks and delays.

The U.S., which was conducting its annual Cobra Gold military exercises in the area when the cyclone hit, has 11,000 troops and a flotilla of ships ready to go. U.S. military assets from as far away as Guam and Japan are in Thailand or off its waters.

"We've got a lot of assets in the field," said Lt. Col. Douglas Powell, a Marine spokesman for the relief effort, called Operation Caring Response. "We're not limited to our C-130s."

Largely with the use of helicopters, which have tremendous versatility, the U.S. military made a major contribution to the international relief effort after the catastrophic 2004 tsunami killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen nations around the Indian Ocean.

Helicopters to the devastated Irrawaddy Delta and some troops on the ground would be an essential part of a stepped-up relief effort in Myanmar as well.

To prepare for such an operation, the U.S. is moving several ships that can support helicopters into international waters closer to Myanmar and has scouted out possible staging sights on land, including Mae Sot, a Thai border town with an air base about 250 miles from the disaster zone.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday that Navy ships from the USS Essex expeditionary strike group were moved slightly after Wednesday's warning of another approaching storm, but they are now some 30 miles off Myanmar's coast, also waiting to help, if asked.

"The need is still high," Whitman said.

Thailand also has sent military flights to Yangon. The British, French and Australian militaries have diverted assets to help, but are still awaiting approval from the Myanmar leaders to actually go in.


Myanmar’s aid ban is a murderous act of neglect

In 2005, following consultation with the stars, Myanmar’s military chief Than Shwe moved the capital from Yangon – formerly Rangoon – to Naypyidaw.

Then British ambassador to Thailand, Derek Tonkin, revealed: “It is said that Than Shwe’s astrologer told him to move the capital because Rangoon would suffer a calamity.”

Well, that disaster came more than two weeks ago in the form of a mighty cyclone that ripped through the country leaving 66,000 people dead or missing and millions more homeless.

With Yangon now a city of rubble, the junta’s escape is likely to confirm in its leaders’ minds that they really do have a near supernatural right to rule.

However, helping the mystical forces employed by the junta is the more earthly pastime of vote rigging.

Yesterday the country’s military rulers declared victory in a national referendum on a new constitution with 92.4% of the ballots.

The referendum took place last Saturday – days after the cyclone wreaked havoc on Myanmar leaving much of it underwater with tens of thousands of people unaccounted for. Despite all of this the turnout was 99% – a figure that even the most optimistic of astrologers would have called amazing.

Unsurprisingly, the opposition National League for Democracy spokesman, Nyan Win, has been a little blunter in his description of the referendum, dismissing it as “full of cheating and fraud”.

And, as the results came out, Reuters commented that after 46 years of unbroken military rule many people both inside and outside Myanmar now think it will take an act of God to get rid of the junta.

If a natural disaster like Cyclone Nargis – with its 200 kph gales and brutal four-metre tidal surge – can do little to dislodge the regime, the news agency just might have a point.

However, more distressing than the junta’s continuing tyranny is its vile resistance to granting visas to foreign aid workers to facilitate a coherent relief programme in the country.

“We are way behind the curve compared to any other international disaster in recent memory,” said Mark Malloch Brown from the UK foreign office.

Talking about the junta’s reaction, Thai Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama added: “We are trying to convince them to allow rescue teams into Myanmar. However, we can’t put pressure on them. We are going to talk and convince them.”
And that perhaps says it all.

With many thousands of lives at risk, the international community is hoping to persuade a regime that has shown scant regard for its people at the best of times – and no regard for the thoughts of outsiders at all – to be reasonable and allow foreign help in.

While the junta can hardly be blamed for a natural disaster, it can be held accountable for mishandling disaster management.

And if the junta had been armed with machetes rather than a despicable determination to keep the world away their neglect could be seen as mass murder.

Gulf Times

Red Cross: Clean water most urgent for Myanmar

GENEVA - The international Red Cross says a lack of clean water will be the biggest killer in Myanmar in the coming days.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims in the Southeast Asian country need clean water urgently or risk falling victim to diseases such as dysentery.

The Geneva-based group says its partner organization in Myanmar currently lacks the logistical and material capacity to distribute water purification units to all those who need it.

The head of IFRC's global operations division made the comments Friday as the group launched a $51 million appeal to fund its aid operation in Myanmar over the coming years.


Dead bodies no threat to disaster victims: WHO

CONTRARY to popular belief, dead bodies left from natural disasters such as the China earthquake and Myanmar cyclone are not a source of disease or a health threat to survivors, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.

Rather, a lack of safe water supplies and poor sanitation were the main epidemic threat in the days after a major catastrophe, Arturo Pesigan in a statement from the WHO's Western Pacific Region's headquarters in Manila.

'There is a widespread and erroneous belief that dead bodies are a source of disease and therefore a threat to public health. This is untrue,' he said.

'There has never been a documented case of a post-natural-disaster epidemic that could be traced to dead bodies,' said the doctor, who helps oversee emergency and humanitarian services in the region.

He said those killed by disasters were generally healthy at the time of their death, and were unlikely to be a source of infection to others.

'The micro-organisms responsible for the decomposition of bodies are not capable of causing disease in living people,' the WHO technical officer said.

'Most infectious agents of public health concern that may be present at the time of death will themselves die within hours of the person dying.'

'Generally, for an epidemic to occur, certain necessary conditions related to infectious agents, susceptible hosts and a favourable environment have to be met. If any of these conditions is not present, an epidemic cannot occur.'

He said epidemics, however, could occur after a disaster with the peak danger period being between 10 days and one month after the event.

'Unsafe food and a lack of access to safe water, facilities for personal hygiene and safe sanitation arrangements all create a real risk for outbreaks of infectious disease at any time,' Dr Pesigan said.

He said these conditions added to large numbers of people in overcrowded temporary shelters, 'heighten the danger.'

Dr Pesigan said it was important to concentrate efforts on the living rather than diverting resources into disposing of dead bodies.

'Pressure from misinformed journalists and media organisations can cause governments to behave inappropriately, for example spraying the area around dead bodies with disinfectant or covering dead bodies with lime,' he said.

'These operations are costly, time consuming, require complicated logistics and coordination, take staff away from caring for survivors and are totally unnecessary.' -- AFP-ST

Bolton man's Burmese mercy mission

By Staff Reporter
The Bolton News

A BOLTON man is flying out to Burma to help victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Iqbal Rawat will be taking five cases of medicine, donated by pharmacies in Bolton, when he travels to the devastated country on Saturday.

The drugs are vital to help stop the spread of disease.

Cyclone Nargis has left 34,000 people dead, 27,000 are missing and millions are homeless.

Health charities are warning that 1.9 million survivors are in desperate need of emergency aid.

Mr Rawat, aged 40, whose family are from the Mandalay area of Burma, is also hoping to help build bamboo shelters and distribute food parcels.

He said: "I have got my visa sorted and all plans are in place for me to fly out on Saturday.

"We will have to be very discreet when we help people because of the authorities.

"Some of the photos I have seen are very disturbing. One of the threats to survivors is catching diseases, so we are taking antibiotics, rehydration solution and water purification tablets, which have been kindly donated by local pharmacies."

Mr Rawat was born in Burma, but moved with his family to Bolton when he was still a baby.

He is one of the founders of Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), a charity based in Derby Street, Bolton.

It has been operating for three years in Burma, where field workers have been digging wells and building homes.

The trust has so far raised more than £50,000 for the cyclone victims.

Mr Rawat plans to spend 10 days helping the emergency rescue operation in Burma - weather permitting.

He said: "Another cyclone has been predicted so plans could change.

"If the worst happens, I may have to go on a later date because I won't be able to move around the country and get to the people who need the help."

The charity is aiming to raise £500,000 for emergency aid.

Paranoid Burmese junta steps up security around Suu Kyi

By Andrew Buncombe

It used to be you could ask any taxi driver and they would show you her house.

There could be no stopping and no taking photographs, but they would drive you along Rangoon's University Avenue and you could glimpse the property where Aung San Suu Kyi has spent almost 13 years under house arrest.

Now you cannot even do that. The day after Cyclone Nargis struck, the military authorities ordered that the security around her house be increased. So long a prisoner in her own home, she is now even more isolated from the Burmese people.

Given the devastation wrought by Nargis, one might have assumed the authorities had more pressing priorities. But their decision to block off the house of the leader of Burma's political opposition reveals the junta's concern over the power the 62-year-old woman holds.

After hundreds of monks gathered outside her house during September's pro-democracy demonstrations, the junta is apparently keen to ensure she does not again become a rallying point for people angry and frustrated by the regime's ineffective response to the damage caused by the storm.

Suu Kyi lives with two maids. Her meals are brought in every day – checked by guards outside her house. Foreign diplomats were once permitted to call but that was stopped; her doctor is her only regular visitor. But even those visits, every three weeks, have been halted.

"Whenever they are worried about her influencing the current situation they stop her doctor's visits," said a Western diplomat based in Rangoon. "After last September, her doctor was not allowed to visit until December."

Her unique position is partly the result of an absence of alternative political leaders. Almost all of the organisers of several demonstrations held in Rangoon last summer before the larger protests in September have been jailed. Of the remainder, some have left the country while others are in hiding. Suu Kyi remains the only visible opposition figure.

"Burma's half-million-strong army is terrified of her. She has the love and support of the people. She unites Burma's different political and ethnic groups. This makes her their greatest threat – she unites the people against the regime," said Mark Farmaner, of the Burma Campaign UK.

"The generals are trying to keep her completely isolated from her people and from the world. Her phone line is cut, they intercept all her post. No visitors are allowed. Her sons are not even allowed into the country and she has grandchildren that she has never seen."

Suu Kyi was last detained in May 2003. In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of the Burmese regime, the generals annually renew her imprisonment with a detention order delivered to her house.

"There may be a lot of younger people who do not agree with everything she says," said another Westerner who lives in Rangoon. "But if she was released everybody would rally around her. The regime is paranoid of the West and they are paranoid of her."

The opposition leader reportedly fills her time reading and meditating. It is unclear whether she still has a radio. She used to play the piano in her house but complained many years ago that it had fallen into disrepair.

Burma: High level donors' meeting planned

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes plans to travel to cyclone-hit Burma to persuade the junta to open up to foreign aid, as southeast Asia neighbours prepared for donor talks.

Holmes was preparing his trip as Burma's Southeast Asian neighbours geared for talks aimed at convening a high-level donors meeting, which UN sources said could take place in Bangkok on May 24.

Holmes, who heads the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has requested a visa and should be travelling "in the next five to six days," said UN spokeswoman Michele Montas.

Junta: No foreign aid workers

The trip comes as Burma's ruling junta dug in its heels two weeks after the deadly Cyclone Nargis struck, repeating that it would not bow to pressure to let in foreign aid workers.

With at least 71,000 dead or missing and another two million in dire need of emergency aid, the generals again rebuffed calls to accept the foreign relief workers needed to quickly deliver food, water, shelter and medicine.

"We will stop at nothing in trying to pressure the regime into doing what any regime should have done long ago," British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in London.

"And there should be nothing, nothing that stops that aid getting to the people of the country now."

Singapore summit

UN officials are waiting for the emergency ministerial meeting the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries has scheduled for Monday in Singapore to work out details of a broader aid donors conference on Burma.

The ASEAN countries "are going to be discussing where that pledging conference (for assistance to cyclone victims) can take place and who can participate," according to Montas.

A UN source said the meeting would be high-level, probably at the ministerial level, and would likely take place in Southeast Asia – probably Bangkok -- with May 24 suggested.

Nargis hit overnight on May 2, tearing through the rice-growing Irrawaddy Delta and wiping out entire villages with powerful winds and giant waves that turned much of the area into a disease-infested swamp.

Delta region sealed off

At first, journalists returned from the area with tales of misery -- corpses rotting in the water as untold thousands of survivors lined the streets begging for food.

Now the junta has sealed off the region to reporters and insists the impoverished country, once a rich British colony known as Burma, can stand on its own.

The government-controlled New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the country's people could rebuild the devastated region without help.

"They will not rely too much on international assistance and will reconstruct the nation on (a) self-reliance basis," it said.

International leaders have lambasted Burma's government for not opening the door to aid groups.

"We are way behind the curve compared to any other international disaster in recent memory," said Mark Malloch-Brown, a top British diplomat.

"I cannot recall a relief operation where, at least the international response, has been subjected to such delays," he said in Bangkok.

Junta: 'Victory in referendum'

Despite the massive humanitarian emergency, the military regime on Thursday announced victory in a national referendum on a new constitution with 92.4 percent of the ballots.

It said the turnout in the vote, held last Saturday with parts of the country still underwater and tens of thousands of people unaccounted for, was 99 percent. Affected areas go to the polls later this month.

The regime said the vote, the first here since 1990, was a step on the road to democracy, but critics say it will only tighten the military's grip on power.

Monasteries cleared

Meanwhile the government is pushing survivors out of monasteries where they fled after the storm -- perhaps wary of the role Buddhist monks played in last year's abortive anti-government uprising.

Monks and evacuees from the main city Rangoon as well as Labutta, one of the hardest-hit delta towns, said thousands of people were being forced out of monasteries.

"Where do they want us to go?" said 30-year-old Gangamani. "We have no house any more, and it is raining."

New rains have added to the misery for increasingly desperate people at risk of everything from snakebites and pneumonia to outright starvation.

"Half the people displaced aren't in actual buildings," said Kathryn Rawe, spokeswoman for Save the Children, an aid group. "They're basically under plastic, and it's raining. It breaks your heart."'

Source: AFP-SBS

DVB News for 14th and 15th May'08

Storm victims arrested and driven out from shelters

UN says relief effort still facing restrictions

Mandalay abbots reach Rangoon with relief supplies

Refugees driven out of Dawpon township

Villager describes latest situation in Bogalay

Junta divides and rules

Mockery of human tragedy; relief supplies on sale

Mizzima News

14 May 2008 - The Burmese military junta is instrumental in making a mockery of human tragedy. Over 100,000 lives were lost and two million rendered homeless by cyclone Nargis and yet relief material donated by the international community and aid agencies have found their way into the markets. Such is the scale of corruption in Burma.

Local residents said they saw foreign made biscuits, dried meat, instant noodles, tarpaulins and plastic sheets on sale in Nyaunpinlay market, Mingalar market, Bogale market, Theingyi market and other markets in Rangoon.

"I bought biscuits with labels like CNE (green), MCS, PMUS, DIS, IT --- brands made in Thailand, Japan and China, and ready to eat meat, instant noodles that I have never found in these markets before," a man who bought the stuff from Bogale market told Mizzima.

Another local resident said that the biscuits put on sale in the market are the same as the ones distributed to cyclone victims on May 11 in South Dagon Township by the local authority.

The Mizzima correspondent in Rangoon said tissue packets with Red Cross labels were seen in a store in Mingalar market.

Another local resident in Rangoon said he saw army trucks from the Navy Supplies Depot, in Mingaladon, Syriam and Labutta bringing the relief materials to the markets.

"I found the same biscuits in the Nyaungpinlay market and the shopkeeper was shouting -- 'foreign biscuits available'," he said.

Similarly, he said he saw foodstuff, part of the relief supplies, at the residence of his friend who works at the airport.

"When I visited my friend's house on Tuesday, I saw a dozen tins of sardines and about five packets of biscuits in his home. When I asked him, he said he got it from his work place."

An aid worker expressing concern told Mizzima that relief supplies donated for the cyclone victims are on sale in Rangoon markets.

"The aid workers have got photographic evidence of these supplies being put on sale in the markets. The rice sacks and condensed milk tins with 'World Food Program' (WFP) logos and Japanese flags are on sale," said the aid worker.

The aid worker added that mosquito nets with (UNH) logos were also spotted at the corner of Bar Street, in Rangoon. Instant noodles are being sold at Kyat 600 per sachet as the price tag in Nyaungpinlay market. Moreover US made makeshift tents designed for patients are available at Kyat. 87,000 per unit in Mingaladon market, the aid worker rued.

But, Paul Risley of the World Food Program said the organization has not received any reports regarding the aid materials being sold in the markets instead of being distributed among cyclone victims.

Opposition, critics blast poll results

Mizzima News

New Delhi – Burma's main opposition party – the National League for Democracy – said the results of the May 10 referendum lack credibility and legitimacy and do not reflect the desire of voters.

Burma's ruling junta on Thursday announced through state-owned radio that a draft constitution was approved in a nationwide referendum with 92.4 percent of voters supporting the charter.

The NLD, which won a landslide victory in a 1990 parliamentary election that was later annulled by the military, said they cannot accept the results.

"This referendum does not reflect the peoples' desires. So, if the constitution is being approved without the people's desires it will still be illegitimate," Nyan Win, the NLD spokesperson, said.

Burma's prominent student activist group – the 88 Generation Students – however, said they are not surprised at the poll results as there was not a free and fair atmosphere in the lead up to the referendum.

Tun Myint Aung, one of the few 88 Generation Students still on the run from the junta, told Mizzima from his hide-out, "The junta do not even need to conduct the referendum, because they are doing whatever they want and we already knew they would announce that more than 90 percent supported the referendum."

"But through this referendum, people learnt how they were cheated and intimidated by the junta to approve the draft constitution," Tun Myint Aung said.

David Scott Mathieson, Human Rights Watch's Burma consultant, said the result is "absurd, ridiculous and transparently dishonest." Mathieson said with the junta's practice of widespread vote-rigging, intimidation and ballot-stuffing, the results lack credibility.

"This is not how you run a democracy, but it is a mafia dictatorship," Mathieson said.

The junta's draft constitution said the charter would be enacted if more than 50 percent of voters supported it, and as long as half of the eligible voters turned out at the polls.

Total turnout was 99.07 percent, according to the junta's announcement.

HRW said the Burmese junta's figures cannot be taken seriously, as there has never been such a high voter turnout, even in functioning democracies.

"Burma does not have the technical capacity to ensure this figure of voter turnout," Mathieson said.

A voter from Mandalay's Chan Aye Thar Zan Township, who spoke to Mizzima over the telephone Thursday, said there is no way the measure could have been defeated as the authorities are openly rigging votes.

The voter said he witnessed the counting of votes in his polling station as he was one of the last voters to cast his ballot on May 10. Under the junta's referendum law, the last 10 voters in each polling station are allowed to stay and witness the counting.

"They are just turning all the 'no' votes into 'yes.' The women affairs members even forced my sister to tick the ballot [yes] when she was about to cross it [no]," the voter said.

Reporting by Maung Dee, Huaipi, Jone Mann and Nem Davies, and writing by Mungpi.

Surprised voters learn junta cast votes for them in 'rigged' referendum

Mizzima News

New Delhi – After 18 years without a chance to vote, many Burmese showed up at polling stations on May 10 only to find out that their votes have been cast in advance.

Mungpi - A government official in Burma's second largest city of Mandalay said that was because she and her colleagues had worked over night on the eve on the constitutional referendum illegally casting votes on their behalf.

The official, secretary of a ward in Mandalay that controls seven polling booths, said she was awakened at midnight on the eve of the May 10 referendum and was handed several ballot papers. Her superiors had earlier informed her that she would have to work that night.

"My colleagues and I were asked to tick [yes] on the ballot papers for people in our neighborhood without their knowledge," she said.

It was one of the most blatant examples of vote-rigging carried out by the military regime, which announced Thursday that the draft constitution has been approved by 92.4 percent of voters. Reports of similar ballot tampering surfaced in Kachin State, Shan State, Sagaing Division, Pegu Division and Magwe Division.

In Mandalay, the official said they called headmen, the leaders of 100 houses, who had the list of names eligible voters, and asked them to enter the names of people living in their localities into the register book.

"All of our office staff were busy working the whole night and marking the ballots with 'yes'," said the official, who asked not to be named. She also requested the name of the ward she is working in to be withheld for fear of reprisal.

On the next day, when the polls opened at 6 a.m., the official turned away several voters in whose names votes had been previously cast.

"We couldn't finish all the ballots that were handed to us, as the night ran out," said the official. "We managed to get 5,405 ballots ticked out of more than 6,000 ballots that were given to us."

"We did not get even a wink of sleep that night," the official said.

The official, however, was not the only one to do the overnight job on the eve of the poll.

A police officer in charge of a township in Mandalay said he was on the road and carrying ballots on a government jeep to various ward offices in the township he controlled.

"I have to oversee that the ballots are brought from the township office to the wards [for advance voting]," the police officer, who requested not to be identified, told Mizzima.

The police officer said he handed the ballots to the ward officials, who then spent the night ticking 'yes.'

"It is a funny way of voting," the officer said, laughing.

As a result of the overnight work by government officials, many voters who came to the polling station on May 10 were surprised.

In a random telephone call on May 10 to voters in Maha Aung Myea Township of Mandalay, several women said they were told their ballots had already been cast.

"I was told only to sign the register book next to my name and was told that my vote had been collected," a women voter said.

A company manager told Mizzima that several of his colleagues who went to vote at polling station no. 390-391, in the government primary school no. 34 in west Thanhlyet Maw in Maha Aung Myea Township, came back without voting.

"The officials told them their votes have been cast in advance and they only needed to sign. They did not know that they had ever voted," he added.

Cyclone Survivors Told to Return to Shattered Homes

Children reach their hands out to receive a free banana from a local donor on the outskirts of Rangoon on Wednesday. (Photo: AP)

The Irrawaddy News

Nearly 2,000 cyclone survivors still sheltering in monasteries, religious buildings and schools in one Rangoon township have been told by the authorities to return to what is left of their homes by May 20.

The order was confirmed by one resident of the affected township, South Dagon Myothit, who asked: “Where will the survivors live?” Angered by the official order, Ko Pauk said: “Their homes were destroyed by the cyclone. The authorities are really stupid.”

Some survivors were being assigned to a relief camp of some 50 tents, but Ko Pauk pointed out that it couldn’t accommodate all.

In the devastated Irrawaddy delta town of Laputta, meanwhile, survivors are being moved from a local temple and a religious building to a camp set up on a football ground. The survivors had sought refuge at the Suu Taung Pyi temple and a township dhamma building.

Aye Kyu, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy’s disaster relief committee in the township, said the camp had about 60 tents with accommodation for some 1,000 people.

“The authorities are now trying to relocate about 10,000 people. How are so many people going to live in a camp intended for 1,000?” he asked.

Meanwhile, a medical worker in Laputta Township, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the authorities had stopped a local relief group of young people and private donors from distributing aid.

“While the group was preparing to distribute rice and curry for people, a military officer came and ordered to them stop their work,” he said. “The reason isn’t clear.”

Local staffers from two international medical organizations, Medicins Sans Frontieres and Merlin are operating two clinics in Laputta.

Children who survived the cyclone may have to continue their schooling in relief camps and tents when the new term begins on June 1 because 85 percent of the schools in the region had been destroyed or damaged, the UN said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

UNICEF said there is no time to rebuild the estimated 2,700 severely damaged primary schools attended by 350,000 students or to replace the unknown numbers of teachers killed or missing in the cyclone.

Voting in the national referendum that had been postponed in 40 townships in Rangoon Division and seven townships in Irrawaddy Division will be held on May 24, but will have little effect on the final outcome, which the junta says gives it overwhelming approval of its proposed constitution.

State media announced on Thursday that 20,786,596, or 92.4 percent of the enfranchised electorate, had voted in favor of the constitution, while 1,375,480 voted against. The referendum was held amid charges of massive vote-rigging, bribery and intimidation of voters.

Behind the Story in Laputta

The Irrawaddy News

The following is an Internet conversation between an Irrawaddy editor and an Irrawaddy correspondent in Rangoon, who had just returned from Laputta Township in the Irrawaddy delta.

Correspondent: I’m back.

Irrawaddy office: Welcome back. How was your trip?

Correspondent: I thought I was going to die there. I’m lucky to be talking to you here. I was in deep trouble, but I got what I wanted.

Office: So you can write what you have seen there?

Correspondent: When I went to the villages, I was caught in heavy rain and strong winds. We were in the middle of the river. When I was on the way back to Rangoon, the car almost turned over. In my whole life, I have never had such a rough trip.

Office: I am proud of you.

Correspondent: I am still scared when I recall the trip, rather than taking pride. If I died in the river, I would have been fish bait. I was afraid that my body would be floating in the river, and no one would come to rescue me. Now, when I think of this I feel funny and want to laugh. I am also ashamed.

Office: I understand your feeling.

Correspondent: The situation in Laputta is worse than in Bogalay. But now, according to a local staffer with the Red Cross in Laputta, 120,000 have died. It is terrible.

Office: Tell me about the relief missions.

Correspondent: Bad! I can’t describe how bad it is.

Office: Go on…

Correspondent: People are suffering from pneumonia and other diseases. There hasn’t been an outbreak of cholera yet. But if it goes at this rate, it surely will.

Office: Because of rain and not enough shelter, right?

Correspondent: The UN can only provide rice. It cannot take care of the other things that are needed yet. There are some other organizations. But the relief effort is not effective yet.

Office: How are the refugees surviving? Who is helping them?

Correspondent: You will know when you see my photos—how serious it is. The situation is very serious in villages. Not all refugees are getting to the shelter camps in towns. Rescue teams no longer conduct search and rescue operations. I don’t know who to blame. Donors [Domestic] can donate directly [to cyclone survivors]. They come from Rangoon and other parts of Burma. But it is not enough.

Office: What about the news that said rice from the UN is now sold by some authorities?

Correspondent: I haven’t seen that yet. The current problem is to get enough food to feed refugees. It is not enough to give rice alone. Rice is the main food, but rice alone cannot make them well and healthy. They haven’t received clothes, either.

Office: What about shelters?

Correspondent: I was really disheartened to see refugees who have no shelter and were shivering in the rain. It is tragic. It is high time to question the UN’s actions. What are they doing? Where is the aid?

Office: They must get permission to help the refugees from the government.

Correspondent: Can we call this assistance, since they are offering only a little bit of rice and a few medicines? How can we understand this? Before UN relief agencies came, people there had rice soup. Now they are eating low-quality rice and drinking water that has chlorine in it. Maybe one or two biscuits.

Is this assistance?

Mee Done [low quality rice] rice is what they are eating. Some rice was bought from the surrounding area. I was really pissed off and scolded some people.

Office: We heard that energy biscuits are not reaching the refugees. Rumor has it that authorities take them away…

Correspondent: It has been 13 days since the storm struck. The survivors are really unlucky.

Office: Haven’t they [refugees] received some blue colored tents? I saw some photos.

Correspondent: I have seen the tents, about 100. It was in Laputta. It was just for show. You would understand, if you see with your own eyes how they really live.

Office: Really?

Correspondent: You can’t know the real situation until you come and see. You need to talk to people. I have been thinking how to help these people. Now I feel sad while I’m explaining it to you.

Office: Don’t expect too much. We’re journalists who need to tell and report what is really happening on the ground. This is very important. It is enough if you can write a good story about your trip.

Correspondent: That’s right. But I will confess. In my writing, there may be some things where I may take sides with the refugees. If it means I break our [journalism] ethic of objectivity, I will. You will understand how bad the situation there is by just reading my story.

Office: You are free to write.

Correspondent: I have spoken to some UN officials, and they are blaming the refugees. They said, “Though we give them rice, the refugees tell visitors they don’t get the rice.” Damn bad guys! They are Burmese (UN) staff.

Office: Really. That’s bad.

Correspondent: I felt like punching them. Damn fools! A Burmese official in charge of the UN relief committee in Laputta came in a big car when there was trouble and gave instructions.

Office: Write about it in your article.

Correspondent: The rest are on the same page: “Refugees are bad.” Whoever comes, they don’t believe the stories from refuges about losing families and homes. But the refugees don’t lie. Their faces are filled with sadness and tears.

Office: I sympathize with you and your feelings.

Correspondent: In fact, the refugees don’t even have energy to lie or pretend. They need people to come and console them. Don’t the aid workers understand that food and drinking water alone is not enough?

Let me tell you one more thing. Some relief organizations also complained that if the refugees keep receiving free food, they will become lazy.

Office: Was that a UN staffer?

Correspondent: No. I’m too angry to remember which group he belonged to. I have to check [my notes]. I will write the details in my story.

The correspondent is ill. The Irrawaddy will publish his story and photographs in the coming days.