Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Burma's (Myanmar's) elite help with aid

Rangoon, Burma - While international aid groups and world leaders have been clamoring for greater access or accusing the government of Burma (Myanmar) of neglecting cyclone victims, the junta has effectively parceled out areas of the disaster zone to the country's corporate leaders.

They are a "who's who" of Burma's business class: powerful execs with close ties to the ruling military junta, some of them under Western sanctions for that reason.

Despite those connections – indeed, because they have enabled these men to distribute badly needed relief – foreign aid workers in Burma, their own efforts inhibited by the junta, are partnering with these businessmen-turned-relief workers.

Andrew Kirkwood, Burma director for Save the Children, has been sharing boats and distribution networks in the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta with corporate-relief volunteers from Serge Pun Associates.

"They've been doing a lot of good things. They have a lot of assets, and they've been putting it to good use," he says. "We've been coordinating at various levels to reach as many people as possible."

Burma's power class
A week after the May 2-3 cyclone Nargis left an estimated 134,000 dead or missing and 2.4 million more affected, the government put out a call asking business leaders to volunteer for relief operations, says James Kong, a Hong Kong-based surgeon and former head of Rangoon's Pun Hlaing International Hospital, who has returned to help his native Burma.

Some of them are under Western sanctions. Others hold foreign passports, work with business leaders across Asia, and have publicly listed companies on Asian markets.

On May 12, a number of executives formed the Cape Negrais Committee, named after the site where the cyclone first slammed into southern Burma's Irrawaddy Delta.

The team has so far helped 45,000 to 75,000 people on Middle Island, one of their areas of operation in the delta, says Mark Tippetts, an Englishman and longtime Burma resident who oversees the Pun Hlaing golf course, a favorite haunt of Burma's elite.

The hard-to-reach delta is where many of the more than one million people who have yet to receive aid are located, according to the United Nations.

Htoo Trading, led by young entrepreneur Tay Za, is operating in the delta's Bogale area. Tay Za came under US economic sanctions last October when President Bush tightened restrictions on ranking members of Burma's ruling junta and associated business groups.

Another company, Max Myanmar Ltd., is running relief operations in the town of Labutta.

'He's got boats'
Save the Children, a respected international organization which has reached about 300,000 cyclone survivors in Burma, is working closely with Serge Pun, the chairman of Yoma Bank and 40 other companies, who is not under US sanctions.

"I feel absolutely comfortable with our relationship with him," says Mr. Kirkwood, adding that, before accepting Pun's offer to help, the aid agency conducted a background check and concluded there was no reason to refuse.

"He's got boats and people and warehouses, and we've got lots of aid to deliver, and together we can get stuff to people who need it," Kirkwood continues.

Pun, who is pioneering private healthcare in Burma, flew back to the country on May 11 and converted his companies' executives, as well as doctors at Pun Hlaing hospital, into volunteer aid workers.

After some quick training on how to handle emergencies and trauma, 12 doctors and a team of nurses and support staff headed deep into the delta.

They endured seven-hour boat rides amid stormy currents and rain, says Joseph Lopez, chief operating officer at Pun Hlaing hospital.

Corporate efforts: good, not enough
International aid workers and Western diplomats are quick to praise the heroic response of private groups and individuals in Burma to the disaster.

But Western diplomats say this shouldn't distract from the regime's continued obstruction of foreign aid and equipment and refusal to allow many foreign experts into the disaster zone.

"There no doubt they [the business groups] are helping people get access to aid and medicine, says a Western diplomat.

"But rather than rely on local businesspeople with no aid experience, it makes more sense for experts to be allowed to mobilize properly," the diplomat continues.

Last Wednesday, a prominent entertainer and political activist known as Zarganar, who had led private relief operations in the Delta, was arrested at his home in Rangoon.

His detention may be linked to his background and his speaking out critically against the government to foreign media, says Win Min, an exiled Burmese professor in Chiang Mai, Thailand, adding that it sends a worrying signal to other private groups.

"If Zarganar can be arrested, anyone can be arrested if the government is angered by what you're doing" in the delta, says Win Min.

Media reports have carried accounts of Burmese being prevented from driving to the delta with aid supplies and of private trucks being seized by police and soldiers.

• Simon Montlake contributed reporting from Bangkok, Thailand.

Christian Science Monitor

Fifteen opposition youth members released

Nay Thwin

Mizzima - Fifteen youth members of the Opposition political party the National League for Democracy arrested for marching to party leader Aung San Suu Kyi's residence were released from police investigation camps after two weeks of detention.

The youths were arrested on May 27, 2008, on the 18th anniversary of the day when the party posted a landslide victory in a democratic election in 1990. They were walking to the home of the detained opposition leader on University Avenue, Rangoon and were holding aloft banners which read - " Free.. Free.. Aung San Suu Kyi", "We need… immediate aid".

Party spokesperson Nyan Win told Mizzima "I received information that they were released at 9 p.m. yesterday but I have not seen any of them in the office".

He added that all 15 youth members were detained in Aung Tha Pyay detention camp and released simultaneously.

Satellite dish shops raided and confiscated

Huai Pi

Mizzima, 09 June 2008, New Delhi – Shops selling satellite dish antennas are being raided and searched by local authorities in Rangoon. The shop owners are being made to sign a pledge not to sell satellite equipments to unlicensed customers. Satellite dish equipments were confiscated from some shops.

Local officials raided and searched Toshiba Kyaw Win's satellite dish shop located on Anawratha Street, Latha Township, Rangoon Division three days ago. They seized satellite dish equipments from the shop and the owner had to sign a pledge not to sell dishes to unlicensed customers.

"They are searching the shops now but our shop has stopped selling the dishes," owner of 'Soe San Electronic Centre' in Bahan Township said.

Meanwhile satellite dish dealers Ko Chit Win Kyaing from 'Grand Electronic' and another dealer from 'Green Leaf' were arrested recently without any reason being given, the sources close to satellite dish dealers told Mizzima.

The government raised the annual license fees for satellite dishes after the saffron revolution in September last year. The local residents speculated that the government's move of raising license fees was to curb information outflow on the brutal crackdown on protesters at that time. Similarly the government is trying to restrict sending and receiving photographs, video clips and other information. The idea is to impose a news blackout and stopping international news services from being viewed.

After the high license fees imposed, the sales of satellite dishes fell drastically. Many shops have stopped selling.

"We stopped satellite dish sales after license fees increased and the business became sluggish," the owner of 'Hla Han & Sons' satellite dish shop said.

International TV news services were popular among the people in Rangoon after the saffron revolution.

Former NLD party member felt that the current restriction on satellite dish sale had to do with restricting information outflow to the outside world regarding the true facts of Cyclone Nargis.

"The confiscation of satellite dishes is tantamount to a news blackout," he said.

According to official statistics, there are about 60,000 satellite dish licensees in Burma with a total population of 55 million.

Thousands of Bodies Still Litter Irrawaddy Delta

The Irrawaddy News

More than a month after Cyclone Nargis, thousands of dead bodies still lie in the sodden rice paddies, fields and waterways of Burma’s Irrawaddy delta. Farmers reluctant to take on the grisly task of removing decaying corpses from their land are paying volunteers 1,000 kyat (US 80 cents) for each body they dispose of.

No official organization has taken on the responsibility of collecting the dead, identifying them and giving them a proper funeral, residents complain.

“It is very sad for the families of the dead,” said a Bogalay resident, who reported seeing hundreds of bodies on the banks of the Bogalay River.

“Priority should be given to helping survivors,” he said. “But we should also consider the dignity of those who lost their lives in the disaster. I feel they’ve been neglected.”

Comparisons are being made with the practice adopted after the 2004 tsunami, when every attempt, including DNA testing, was used to identify the dead,

“In the case of Cyclone Nargis, if the bodies can’t be indentified by DNA testing, at least they should be collected and buried,” a Rangoon resident said.

"Identifying bodies at this stage will be incredibly difficult," said Craig Strathern, a Red Cross spokesman in Burma.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has expressed concern about the numbers of bodies it says still litter the Irrawaddy delta. Some have been dumped in canals and unmarked mass graves or cremated, while others remain untouched, according to a report by The Associated Press on Sunday.

Although the military regime ordered three days of national mourning for the cyclone victims from May 20-22, Burma’s spiritual leaders complain that no state-sponsored religious ceremony has yet been held.

Wai Moe contributed to this report.

Don’t Depoliticize Burma’s Cry for Help

The Irrawaddy News

When Cyclone Nargis struck Burma’s Irrawaddy delta—a heavily populated and largely agricultural area that feeds much of this impoverished country—it was immediately obvious that a massive response would be required to avert a major humanitarian crisis.

But a month later, and after some of the most high-powered intercession from regional and world leaders that has ever been seen in the aftermath of a natural disaster, Burma’s military leaders continued to insist they have the situation under control.

For the regime, the crisis passed almost as soon as it happened: The dead were already dead, and the dying might as well be.

Time to move on to more important things—like ratifying a constitution designed to make the generals as politically secure from the threat of genuine democracy as they were from Cyclone Nargis in their fortress-like capital of Naypyidaw.

The regime’s insistence on going through with the constitutional referendum on May 10, at a time when all of its energies should have been devoted to saving lives, mystified foreign observers. Surely, they thought, the regime could set politics aside for a week to deal with a disaster that had devastated the lives of a large swathe of the country’s population.

Two weeks later, when United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Naypyidaw to plead for international access to the cyclone-ravaged delta, he was still in “no politics” mode: “Issues of assistance and aid in Myanmar [Burma] should not be politicized,” he said before his first meeting with the regime’s leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe. “Our focus now is on saving lives.”

What Ban Ki-moon and other world leaders failed to realize is that for the generals who rule Burma, politics always comes first. Where the world saw a humanitarian issue, the junta saw a political opportunity. And politics in military-ruled Burma must be understood in the crudest possible terms—as a ruthless pursuit of power and privilege.

Alas, despite the regime’s expectation that the world’s eagerness to deliver aid to the delta might translate into a major payoff, the international response to Cyclone Nargis had little to offer the generals except prestige. Than Shwe had the honor of meeting the UN chief in person (after weeks of refusing to speak with him by phone), and was invited to host a gathering of international donors eager to pledge millions of dollars to the relief mission. But that wasn’t enough: Than Shwe wanted billions, no strings attached.

Unsurprisingly, Than Shwe’s promise to Ban Ki-moon that he would grant foreign aid workers unhindered access to the delta did not result in the sort of large-scale relief effort that the donors had in mind. When the donors offered just $150 million (far short of the $11 billion the regime said it needed) it was not just an insult to the generals’ dignity—it was a guarantee that thousands more cyclone survivors would die waiting for aid.

Of course, the regime’s concessions to the international community were more than just part of a cash grab. With French, British and American naval vessels waiting just off Burma’s coast for a green light to begin bringing aid supplies directly to those most in need, the generals saw a menace more ominous than any cyclone.

“It would only take half an hour for the French boats and French helicopters to reach the disaster area,” said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. For a paranoid, xenophobic regime, this promise of almost immediate assistance sounded more like a threat than an offer of help.

With Kouchner and others invoking the UN’s principle of “responsibility to protect” (or “R2P”) as a possible way of ending the standoff over access to the delta, the generals probably realized that they were better off relaxing their resistance to foreign aid workers, lest they risk inviting a more aggressive international response.

Unfortunately for the people of the Irrawaddy delta, R2P is a new and as yet untried idea, one that challenges traditional notions of sovereignty. It also imposes an unwelcome burden on governments that prefer not to regard humanitarian intervention as a “responsibility.” As such, it is unlikely to be put into practice anytime soon.

In the meantime, the Burmese regime will continue to “cooperate” with the international community on its own terms, using friendly foreign governments, such as those of fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), as intermediaries.

Despite its longstanding failure to exert any positive influence on the regime, Asean has been entrusted with coordinating international relief efforts through an ad hoc “Asean Emergency Rapid Assessment Team,” which had still not gone into the delta more than a month after the cyclone.

It is a sad fact that the international community, in its efforts to depoliticize the humanitarian crisis still unfolding in Burma, may end up ensuring the ruling regime’s political survival while doing little or nothing to save lives.

It is time for the world to admit that politics is a matter of life and death in Burma. Otherwise, every attempt to deal with the regime effectively will end up dead in the water, like those who perished in Cyclone Nargis.

UN Expert Concerned by Zarganar's Arrest

The Irrawaddy News

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — The United Nations' expert on human rights in Burma said Monday he was very worried about the arrest of a well-known comedian who was trying to help survivors of last month's devastating cyclone.

Comedian Maung Thura—whose stage name is Zarganar—was taken from his home in Rangoon by police Wednesday night after going to the Irrawaddy delta to donate relief items to survivors, a relative said.

Tomas Ojea Quintana from Argentina, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Burma. (Photo: AP)
"I'm very concerned because I don't know so far about his whereabouts," said Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN Human Rights Council's new investigator for Burma.

Quintana, from Argentina, said he asked the government for clarification about Zarganar's arrest.

The relative said Friday that the family had heard nothing from Zarganar since the arrest and that the ruling military junta had given no reason for the arrest.

Zarganar was leading a team of around 400 people assisting cyclone victims, said Quintana, adding that other actors, comedians and writers were part of the group.

The UN estimates a total of 2.4 million people were made homeless or were otherwise affected when Cyclone Nargis hit May 2-3, and has warned that more than 1 million of those still need help, mostly in the hard-to-reach delta.

The 46-year old comedian and his team had made videos of their relief activities and Zarganar gave interviews critical of the government's relief effort to foreign media, including the British Broadcasting Corp., whose news broadcasts are popular in Burma.

In an interview with the Thailand-based magazine Irrawaddy before his arrest, Zarganar said some areas in the delta had not been reached by the government or international aid groups. Zarganar said his group distributed food, blankets, mosquito nets and other aid.

Quintana, who on Friday presented a 16-page report to the UN council on the situation of basic rights in Burma, said he didn't have information about other members of Zarganar's team being arrested.

But "the detention of Zarganar concerns me a lot," he told reporters.

Zarganar, known for his anti-government jibes, has previously been arrested together with other actors for openly supporting demonstrations against the military junta.

UN officials and aid groups have criticized the regime for hindering cyclone relief efforts.

Quintana said if a government is unable to help its people after a disaster, it has to accept outside aid.

"All states have the obligation to guarantee their people all the rights with all the available means," he said. "If the means inside the country are not enough ... there is an obligation to use means from the international community."

Cash rewards for referendum commissioners

By Hseng Khio Fah

(Shan Herald) Local constitutional referendum commissioners in Namkham, northern Shan State, have been given cash rewards by authorities after the result of the referendum on May 10 was announced, according to sources from the Sino-Burma border.

On June 2 members of Namkham Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) including Chairman U Tin Hlaing and Secretary Myo Thu at TPDC office granted cash to every member of local referendum commissioners and staff for their work and the cost of building polling booths, a source said.

Namkham has been the township where the regime had suffered defeat. Tin Hlaing had said that at the event of defeat, he would also be punished. “He must have been spared in the end,” said a source, “after juggling the result of the poll.”

Each commissioner received Kyat 3,000 (US$ 2.2) and polling station staff was given 1,000 Kyat (US$ 0.7) . The authorities paid Kyat 3,000 (US$ 2.2) for the expense of building each polling booth. Every person who received money had to sign, according to the source.

“Actually, it cost us at least Kyat 80,000 (US$ 59.2) for one polling station. They [authorities] just paid back Kyat 3,000 (US$ 2.2). We used the village’s fund for building polling stations,” said a local.

A government source says each of the 45 members of the Convening Commission of nationwide referendum was also given a house and a car. Three of them are from eastern Shan State.

The junta on May 30 announced that the draft constitution had been approved by 92.48 per cent of voters in referendums held on May 10 and 24, where the total turnout was 98.12 percent.

Burmese TV reporter briefly held by Indian police

Khonumthung, May 6, 2008. - The Indian police today briefly detained a TV reporter of Mizzima News, a Burmese media in exile based in India during the protest by Burmese pro-democracy activists outside the Burmese embassy in New Delhi today.

The Mizzima TV reporter Zaw Shan arrived outside the Burmese embassy after protesters left the area.

Zaw Shan was arrested while he along with other Indian TV reporters and cameramen were shooting footage of the wall of the Burmese Embassy which had been spray painted by the Burmese activists with the words "Free Aung San Suu Kyi". He was taken to Chanakyapuri police station in New Delhi.

"They asked me who were protesting and if I had any connection with the protesters. They also wanted to take my video tape," Zaw Shan said.

The police re-recorded the video tape as Zaw Shan kept refusing to handover the tape to the police.

Finally, the Burmese TV reporter was freed after he signed a bond saying he would not shoot video footage in a restricted area in the future.

He was detained in Chanakyapuri police station for almost three hours.

Around 35 Delhi based Burmese pro-democracy activists today staged a protest outside the Burma Embassy urging the Burmese regime to free detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

The protesters also urged the regime to allow international aid workers free access to cyclone affected areas.

The protesters left the area before the police arrived.

US should enter into Burma

Khonumthung News recently interviewed U Phyu Win, a former political prisoner and a graduate from the Rangoon Institute of Technology, on his views on the withdrawal of US ships off the coast of Burma, where they were stationed to provide aid for the cyclone victims. He had participated in the U Tant uprising in 1974. He is among those political activists, who are keen on the United States' humanitarian intervention in Burma.

U Phyu Win is the son of U Sat Suu, who is the founder of the Sino-Burmese Friendship Association in the pre-independent period. U Sat Suu is also a working partner of General Aung San, former prime minister U Nu and former UN General Secretary U Tant.

U Phyu Win occasionally writes historical articles for the Burmese media in exile and even in the country under his pen name 'Lan Thawn Sat Suu Lay'. Currently, he is residing in New Delhi, India, as the Principal and computer teacher of the Prospect Burma School.

Question: Why were you dissatisfied with the withdrawal of US navy ships laden with relief supplies for the cyclone victims, off the coast of Burma?

Answer: I think the US navy ships could have found access to the Burmese coast within a few minutes, if they felt like doing so. It was a big loss for Burma when the US navy decided to withdraw their ships, after incurring a huge expenditure for shipping the relief supplies for the cyclone affected areas. On the other hand, the people are desperately in need of help. When they heard the news, they felt that all their hopes had been shattered.

Question: Would it be possible for USA to anchor its ships on the Burmese coast without getting the green signal from the junta's regime?

Answer: Of course, there is an international rule that any country cannot invade another country unless the UNSC passes the resolution to do so. The US also needs to consider this fact; however, the Burmese regime has been the one, who has broken international norms several times. However, the International body has also failed to take action against Burma's military regime according to international law. For USA, if they were willing to intervene on humanitarian grounds, I think that country can.

At the same time I would like to say that it would not be feasible to ignore the regime, which has such an inhuman attitude and turned a blind eye towards its own citizens when the people were in trouble. The worst is that the regime would be sure to take advantage and propagate that even a superpower like the US does not dare to wage war against them. They would keep on torturing and repressing the people.

Question: If so, what do you think would be the consequences of the withdrawal of US navy ships?

Answer: Recently, Zargana, a famous comedian, and other social workers were arrested by the authorities for their active participation in social work and for helping the cyclone victims. Similarly, I am sure that there would be a series of crackdown on the local relief workers, who voluntarily penetrated the cyclone-hit areas and helped the survivors with whatever they could. In this way the regime would kill most of the people, who were in need of help.

Question: Instead of waiting off the coast of Burma for so long, if the US had chosen a way to channel its relief supplies through the World Food Program (WFP), don't you think it would have worked?

Answer: It is almost over a month now that the Cyclone Nargis slammed into Burma. Even now it is too late to save thousands of lives in those areas. Although the WFP is in the process of reaching aid to the victims, it would take time. Meanwhile, the people would have succumbed to death or perhaps starved.

Question: What about the 200 aid expert teams from ASEAN and UN, which recently flew into Burma to make an assessment in the areas swept by Cyclone Nargis?

Answer: I do not think it would be an effective way to solve the problems that the cyclone victims are facing. It would only benefit the regime and prolong the problem. It is another means for the junta to stop the social workers from assisting the helpless people.

Question: It seems that you are really out of patience and want the US to intervene in Burma as soon as possible, why?

Answer: This phenomenon has not only occurred in the Irrawaddy Delta region but across border areas. In Chin, Karen, Karenni and Shan states, there are thousands of people facing shortage of food. Even now in Wa areas, the people are considering re-growing poppy as the rice supplies have been cut off by China. So, the only way to save these people is if the US and the international community airlift and distribute aid to the cyclone-hit areas. Burma is in a civil war like condition. Therefore, without taking a look at international laws or rules, the US needs to begin humanitarian work in Burma as soon as possible.

Question: Finally, as a veteran pro-democracy activist and historical writer what do you really want the US and the international community to do in tackling the starvation of the victims of this natural disaster?

Answer: UN General Secretary Mr. Ban Ki Mon himself has already said that there are a lot of survivors and there are areas, which still have not received aid. The people still lack food, shelter and medical care because the regime had imposed restrictions on international aid workers. I request the United Nations and NATO to immediately intervene in the situation in Burma on humanitarian grounds. The international norms are no more valid in the face of the cruelty of the Burmese regime. Intervention is the only option left to solve Burma's problems. Come into Burma by force! The people of Burma are waiting for you.

Regime's referendum without democratic reference

By Zai Dai
Kachin News

30 May 2008 - Innocent citizens of Burma have been taken in yet again by a farcical nationwide referendum, which was held on May 10 and May 24. Just like the people of Venezuela had brought about the Green Revolution after being oppressed by despots so is the struggle for democratic transformation on in Burma (Myanmar).

The regime's roadmap sketched with the help of its sympathizers since former Prime Minister Gen. Khin Nyut's preplanned enterprise regardless of social-political instability in the country continues. From the very beginning the regime's formation of democratic pattern has been formulated off the frame of democratic principle and value neglecting the right and freedom of peoples every representatives who were supposed to have participated in the National Convention in drafting the National Constitution for political stability of Burma as a whole.

The regime abruptly conducted the Constitutional Referendum for approval of the draft national constitution to legitimize the regime's power. It was an uncivilized referendum without democratic reference under the dictator's boots and the barrel of the gun.

The voters were not to exercise their franchise freely in the referendum and were forced to vote by ticking 'Yes' in the ballots across the country. In fact it is obvious that the regime of aristocrats have been paving only way of heaven for themselves to revitalize feudal bureaucracy once again in Burma. Here it is seen that five lakhs of military personnel are being exploited in power building of the regime's generals instead of fighting the common enemy of this country.

Even the lowest of soldiers is not amply subsidized so that each soldier and his/her family are supported. In this situation the regime has rudely ordered its troops to give right tick as not one's will but as be the will of the regime.

It had been publicly announced by the by Referendum Commission that it is an order of the regime that all troops tick right without failure. This is how voting has come not from freedom of will bur as a regime's order to each military personnel.

In capital Myitkyina, Kachin State the government employees had been threatened to vote "Yes" in referendum. School teachers, government servants, teacher trainees, nursing trainees were forced to do the same. Not all those who put cross marks could have been expelled or dismissed.

For this reason just for the sake of security they were compelled to render tick right in the referendum. Yet almost all medical doctors have boldly crossed the ballots exercising freedom of thought.

The history will pay back those sympathizers: peace talkers, toppers of ceasefire groups, business firms collaborating with the for what they have been doing for the sake of their selfish business rather standing by the side of truth.

In the realm of Christianity in Kachin Land there are two biggest church organizations namely Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) and Kachin Roman Catholic Churches in Kachin state. Naturally Christianity is embodied to establish the Kingdom of God in a biblical word on earth as Jesus did. Keeping such a mission in the hearts of members it usually happened that most in a dilemma looked forward unto them for a Christian stand and role in the referendum.

Yet it is a historic landmark that oddly there was no further direction and help from KBC in the referendum except Kachin Christianity has likely predominated as the State religion under Nazis instead of standing in the side of God who loves truth and justice. There is obvious that present Christian leaders are stagnant in active leadership in social transformation and not playing as it is anointed.

On the other hand lack and denial of leading to the truth toward all believers itself means leading to evil. Christian leaders are being tempted this time under the snare of regime's plot which is controlling it to be discolored a State Religion by mounting all kinds of pressure. Yet there have been faithful Christians who are persistent and perseverant in the midst of hardship, discrimination and asunder in the pilgrimage of Christian lives speaking off and unveiling the truth even under a dictatorship.

It is believed that any ideology of treating state religion for political profit of handful of opportunists will never lead the country towards civilized society rather the spirit which stands for the truth of defenseless citizens.

Another issue that the Kachins regret is the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and its armed wing Kachin Independence Army (KIA) KIO/A’s full support in the referendum hosting it and ticking right on ballots at Laiza, KIO/A Headquarters on May 10, 2008 by the order of Central Standing Committee (CSC) respectively. It is concluded that KIO/A has resolved its problem of insecurity and danger by their own means instead of leading, protecting and standing consistently by the people of Kachin Land and the citizens of the country.

It is obvious that KIO/A is declaring another witness worldwide that it denies democratic principled politics of the Kachins and Kachin State citizens except playing social security politics only for its top most leaders including peace makers, a handful of bilateral business groups reflected in its deed and decision. Yet fortunately it is ascertained that KIO/A is leaving political leadership completely in one hand and the Kachin public is being rung to take up its surviving politics at the same time from this odd and regrettable experience.

As was known this referendum was declared supported because of advance voting. If the ballots of the voters on the day were scrutinized under transparent commissions, surely cross click ballots would surpass the "Yes" votes. So, the military junta or the so called Sate Peace and Development Council (SPDC) officers of every level are enforced to rearrange all ballots voted within 12 hour right after voting is over everywhere.

In the battle of free and fair vote in the referendum in Kachin State, Kachin State National Congress for Democracy (KNCD) party, barred by the regime, won three seats in the 1990 election, has really stood for the Kachins and Kachin State citizens in the last referendum.

As the KNCD has been once again revitalizing its service by giving fundamental and essential awareness and principles for democracy led by Duwa Bawm Lang as a public leader, decades long public leaderless pro-democratic Kachins and Kachin State citizens have met their thirst convincing their stands and their freedom of voting right in the midst of hardship. The KNCD has been playing its role as an action group, standing before the Kachins and Kachin State citizens for smooth and democratic transition in Burma.

As per excellence right ticked ballots has been defeated in many areas though it has been attacked for instance in Waingmaw district, Njang Dung village in Myitkyina. This is how all pro-democratic civilians have voted "No" not just because of one's freedom of right yet but for fighting for the truth. In this context of threats and pressures, pro-democratic Kachins and Kachin State citizen have voted "No".

By this referendum we, Kachins are being declared to enter the war of democracy where the judge will be always the one which is the truth. As our a half century long armed history has taught us today how the public are the only ones responsible as political wing as well as the armed group is playing its armed politics, we couldn't dream so long these two groups work detachedly. Not only there would be no help from both in and out of power until and unless pro-democratic citizens initiate labouring for the goal set but the truth would lead us to the goal laboured for.

Like in military referendum, I should say the regime won, yet in a public referendum the citizens won as rationalized above. Therefore this referendum is one referendum without democratic principles where a pseudo-democratic regime announces a landslide victory for its longevity and security.

Yet, the spirit and responsibility of one's ballot which can represent oneself or one's state, voting with democratic norm (Not just voting for democracy since no one can issue you democracy unless you live for it) and the spirit of voting for right one than fight against injustice, undemocratic, centralized bureaucracy will ultimately lead us to victory by democratic means.

Hereby the regime conducted referendum was allegedly supported by more than 92.4 per cent voters yet the regime is shamefully defeated in the recent referendum on the basis of democratic reference.

(The author is a Kachin writer and also studies Kachin-Burma politics.)

Ethnic Kachin students discriminated against by Burman teachers

Written by KNG

09 June 2008 - In what smacks of racism ethnic Kachin students in Northern Burma were discriminated against during the countrywide government high school examinations between March 11 and 21 by Burman school teachers who hail from lower Burma, local sources said.

The discrimination was against students entering the tenth standard examination rooms in the high school in Nao Mong (Naw Mung) city in Putao District where the Rawang tribe is dominant but most school teachers are Burmans from lower Burma, local people told KNG.

According to residents of Nao Mong, U Thein Saung, Burman Education chief of Nao Mong and other Burman teachers strictly checked all high school examinees. They took off their clothes at the entrance to the class rooms and said "They are not of our nationality (Burmans). They are Rawangs."

Two boys from Hkawnglanghpu City who had their clothes taken off by Burman teachers had to enter the examination room in underwear. The sex organs of some of the students were touched while checking by teachers, students' parents in Nao Mong complained.

A girl student in the examination room fainted and was sent to hospital after she was suspected of cheating in the examinations. She was searched roughly by teachers, the sources added.

The teachers strictly prohibited students from bringing small notes and any printed matter hidden inside their clothes. Burman teachers were ordered to take these steps by the education chief U Thein Saung, according to residents of Nao Mong.

In a high school in Nao Mong, Burman teachers do not teach ethnic Rawang students properly and they always arrive in school late for two or three months, the residents added.

High school students from four cities in Nao Mong areas appeared for their final examinations in Nao Mong and about 400 students appeared this year in high school examinations in Nao Mong, said a resident of Nao Mong.

High school students and their parents in Nao Mong areas are very upset with the racist behaviour of Burman school teacher, residents told KNG.

Soldiers interrogate and torture village headman and group


Burmese Army troops based in Southern Mon state released a village headman and five villagers after interrogating and torturing them on the accusation that they had been supporting Mon rebels active in the area.

Troops of the Infantry Battalion (IB) No.31 based in Khawza sub Township in southern Ye township, freed Yin-ye village headman Nai Maung Ba and other villagers after they provided guarantees.

"Three villagers who have farmlands and plantations provided the guarantee for each of them. If someone from Nai Maung Ba's group escapes, the farmlands and plantations would be seized by the army," a Nai Maung Ba family source told IMNA.

According to a source, Nai Maung Ba and his group have to sign documents every three days in IB No. 31 based at Khaw-za Sub Township to ensure that they do not flee. Nai Maung Ba and his Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) team have been dismissed from their positions. The army is now appointing a new (VPDC) team.

The VPDC chairman in Yin-ye village, Nai Maung Ba (47), Secretary Nai Kyaw Hein (41) and member Nai Sein Maung (41) were arrested by Burmese soldiers of Infantry Battalion No.31 based in Khaw-za sub township on May 29 night. Nai Gare, Nai Kya Kaung and Nai San Yi were arrested on May 28 when they went to give money demanded by Mon rebels.

The soldiers beat the village headman's group the way someone would beat cattle and pigs to death in front of villagers.

The group was arrested for arranging to meet the Monland Restoration Party's demands for funds last month.

Relief materials found in Township PDC watchman's home

Nay Thwin

Mizzima ,09 June 2008, Chiang Mai -- Relief materials meant for cyclone victims were discovered at the Township Peace and Development Council (PDC) office watchman's residence even as the loss of PDC's office fund is being investigated in Khayan Township, Rangoon Division, local residents said.

The fund of Kyat 1,700,000 went missing from the office of Khayan Township PDC and a case was registered at the police station on May 27. The police raided the residence of Ko Aye Hlaing, watchman of the PDC office and found the relief materials donated by the international community for victims of cyclone Nargis, the local residents said.

The relief materials found in his house included trunks, waterproof torch lights, waterproof matchboxes, mosquito nets among other things.

Ko Aye Hlaing is known in the township as a trusted staff of the Township PDC Chairman.

Insiders said that the missing cash is part of the money collected for the Township PDC fund from 49 mobile phone applicants at Kyat 150,000 per head totaling Kyat 7,350,000.

"First Kyat 500,000 was lost, then 1,000,000. But the authorities put the lid on the loss and refrained from filing a complaint at the police station. This time the amount was huge and they could not hush it up. And then the police found skeletons in the township PDC office cupboard," an insider said.

Junta blacks out media


Mizzima, 09 June 2008, New Delhi – The Burmese military junta on Monday warned cyclone victims to remain vigilant against donors, who it said were seeking personal benefits. The donors were taking the credit for being generous and feeding false stories to foreign news agencies, the regime said.

The junta, in its official mouthpiece, New Light of Myanmar, on Monday said, "Internal and external anti-government elements, self-centered persons and unscrupulous elements are now seeking their self-interests by sending to foreign news agencies stories about relief and rehabilitation work they have made up and shot on video."

"Cyclone victims are hereby warned to remain vigilant with nationalistic spirit against the deceptions of self-centered persons and unscrupulous elements," the paper warned.

The warning comes days after the ruling junta raided the residence of a prominent Burmese comedian and relief worker Thura, also known as Zarganar, and arrested him on Wednesday night.

The police team, which arrested Zarganar, also confiscated two cash account books, about 1000 USD, which he had collected to help cyclone victims, and also several video CDs including those on the plight of Cyclone Nargis victims.

"So far we have not received any news about him. We don't know his whereabouts. They [the police] said it would be just for a day or two but till now he is not back. We are worried about him," a relative of Zarganar told Mizzima on Monday afternoon.

But an unconfirmed report received by Mizzima said the Burmese comedian was sent home later on Monday and was kept under surveillance, a situation of house-arrest.

However, his family members were not immediately available to comment and the information could not be independently verified.

The arrest of the Burmese comedian and critic, who was boldly helping cyclone survivors, is clear evidence of intimidation by the ruling junta to all other private volunteers and donors, a Burmese aid worker, working with an international aid agency said.

Following the arrest of Zarganar, rumours have been spreading in Rangoon, Burma's former capital and commercial hub, that at least 12 people, who made video recordings of the devastation caused by the killer cyclone, have been arrested.

While the information cannot be independently verified, the aid worker said a friend in Laputta, who has made video records of the devastation, was taken in for interrogation after police found the clips during a surprise raid in his house.

"This man had several video clips on the devastation and the suffering of the victims. His house was raided by the police and he was taken away for interrogation," the aid worker said.

"Though he was not arrested, he was made to sign a pledge not to continue making video records," the aid worker said.

Meanwhile, sources in Rangoon said at least two dealers of satellite television receivers were arrested during the weekend. Several satellite receivers, which they were selling, were seized.

The source, who wished not to be identified said, Chit Win Kyaing from Grand Electronics and another person from Green Leaf were arrested after the police searched their shops.

"They [the police] did not give any reason. They just raided, confiscated the receivers and arrested them," the source said.

An observer in Rangoon said the junta's recent crackdown on dealers in satellite receivers is an attempt to impose a black-out on the media. Burmese people are curiously watching foreign satellite television broadcasts.

An electronic shop owner in Rangoon on Monday told Mizzima that the police on Friday confiscated at least 50 satellite dishes from a shop in Hlatha Township's Anawratha Street.

"The shop keeper was made to sign a pledge not to sell to people with out a license," the shop owner said.

In Burma, owning a satellite dish or receiver requires license from the authorities. With black marketing in vogue, the law was never strictly enforced. However, it gives the authorities the chance to play around with it.

The junta is taking new steps to stop information flow by arresting and intimidating people who are believed to have contacts with the media, the Burmese aid worker said.

Zarganar, a critic of the ruling junta, was giving interviews and providing information to several news agencies before he was detained on Wednesday. His interviews revealed much about the ground situation - the extent of devastation and relief work done.

The junta, in its mouthpiece newspaper, accused those providing information to the foreign media as well as to Burmese media groups in exile as "saboteurs and destructive elements."

Since Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, the junta has prevented both foreign and domestic journalists from visiting the worst affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta. But several of them have managed to sneak in.

The aid worker said, Zarganar's arrest was not only for his interviews with the foreign media "the authorities also suspected him of assisting foreign journalists to go into the restricted Irrawaddy delta."

UN had to work with Myanmar junta, aid chief says

By Patrick Worsnip

NEW YORK, June 9 (Reuters) - The U.N. humanitarian chief defended on Monday the policy of working with Myanmar's military government after last month's cyclone, saying trying to deliver aid by force would not have helped the victims.

The official, John Holmes, said he believed the cooperation set up with the reclusive junta could ultimately assist international efforts to bring democracy to the Asian country.

Cyclone Nargis, which killed at least 134,000 people after striking in the first days of May, sparked widespread condemnation of the ruling generals for initially blocking international aid workers from entering the country.

France at one point suggested invoking a "responsibility to protect," enshrined in a 2005 U.N. resolution, to deliver aid without waiting for the approval of Myanmar's authorities.

But Holmes, who heads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said he did not believe the Security Council could have forced the junta to be more cooperative or that military operations like airdrops could have worked.

"I've never seen a realistic alternative to the approach we've pursued spelled out by anybody," he told a meeting of the Asia Society in New York.

"Nor have I met anyone engaged in the operation on the ground who thought that there was an alternative which could actually have helped those most in need."

He said U.N. sanctions would not have been agreed by the Security Council, and even if they had been, they would not have benefited the cyclone victims in the short term.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner eventually conceded that the responsibility to protect applied to armed conflicts, not natural disasters. But he said countries on the Security Council that did not agree to pressure Myanmar into opening its doors to foreign aid were guilty of "cowardice."


Holmes said he did not think the responsibility to protect could never be applied to natural disasters, but "it would have to be absolutely the last, last, last resort."

Singapore's U.N. ambassador, Vanu Gopala Menon, told the meeting that threats of Security Council action had made the Myanmar generals initially less ready to cooperate.

"They are suspicious of humanitarian aid serving as a camouflage for regime change, a perception that is not entirely unreasonable when some countries have talked about invoking responsibility to protect and mounting relief operations without host government permission," he said.

During a visit to Myanmar, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon secured a promise on May 23 from senior general Than Shwe to let in foreign aid workers. U.N. officials say the junta has broadly honored that promise so far.

Holmes suggested the relationship established between the international community and Myanmar could "have a significance beyond the immediate humanitarian operation, if both sides wanted it to ... It certainly shouldn't be ruled out."

Everyone knew that once the cyclone crisis was over, attempts to tackle Myanmar's political situation would be back on the agenda, he said.

Since the generals cracked down last September on pro-democracy demonstrators, U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari has been trying to promote dialogue between them and opposition figures including Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari hopes to visit Myanmar again soon, but there have been few signs of political concessions so far from the junta, which shortly after Ban's visit extended Suu Kyi's detention.

Relief Web

Burma rights violations serious: UN

The Burma military junta's arrest of a popular comedian campaigning for victims of Cyclone Nargis is part of continuing serious human rights violations in the country, a United Nations investigator said.

Tomas Ojea Quintana also told a news briefing there were political prisoners in the country, despite the regime's insistence it imprisons law breakers.

"The latest information coming to me in the last few days builds up a picture of a serious situation of violations of human rights in Myanmar [Burma]," said Mr Ojea Quintana, an Argentine lawyer who has just taken up his UN post.

News reports from Rangoon said the comedian, known by his stage name of Zarganar, was detained last Wednesday (local time) by police who seized his computer and banned film and recordings of the devastation caused by the cyclone.

Mr Ojea Quintana, whose own parents were political prisoners under a military regime in Argentina, said he had asked the Burma authorities for clarification and for information on Zarganar's whereabouts, but had received no reply.

As special investigator for Burma, he reports to the UN's 47-nation Human Rights Council at which he called last week for release of all political prisoners, starting with Nobel laureate and Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma's ambassador in Geneva denied his government arrested people for political reasons. He also rejected another assertion by the investigator that soldiers had shot prisoners on the night of the cyclone on May 2.

Mr Ojea Quintana said he understood the prisoners, in a jail at Insein in the Irrawaddy delta where Nargis struck with full force, were trying to flee the partially destroyed facility to save their lives.

In his report, he asked the Burmese authorities to investigate assertions by a Thailand-based activist group that 36 prisoners had died when police and troops moved in to quell what they said was a riot.

The investigator said he hoped to be able to establish an open dialogue with the Government on Burma and to be given permission to visit the country to check information coming into his office. But so far no clearance had come from Rangoon.


Medics wrap up Myanmar mission

BANGKOK (Kyodo) Japan's medical team has completed its emergency humanitarian mission in Labutta, southwestern Myanmar, one of the areas hardest hit by the violent cyclone in early May, according to the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The team will hand over its makeshift facilities and medical equipment to local authorities and experts, including two doctors, the agency said.

The 23-member team, including four doctors and seven nurses, treated 1,202 people in nine days, JICA said.

Despite the large number of people suffering from diarrhea and fever — and the presence of mosquito-transmitted infectious diseases such as dengue fever and malaria — no illnesses spread widely among the local people, according to the agency.

The team was scheduled to travel to Yangon, Myanmar's former capital and largest city, on Monday and report to the country's health ministry Tuesday before leaving the country. The team is expected to return to Japan on Wednesday morning via Bangkok.

Japan Times

UN helicopters ferrying more aid to parts of Myanmar delta largely cut off since cyclone

YANGON, Myanmar (IHT): U.N. helicopters loaded with relief supplies have reached areas of Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta that were cut off from regular aid since a devastating cyclone five weeks ago, an official said.

Four of the five aircraft that arrived over the weekend shuttled emergency supplies like rice and water purification systems to area villages, said Paul Risley, a U.N. World Food Program spokesman.

More sites were expected to be reached Tuesday after flights reached seven parts of the delta Monday, he said.

U.N. officials and aid groups have criticized Myanmar's military regime for restricting access to the delta, saying it has prevented enough food, water and shelter from reaching desperate survivors of the May 2-3 cyclone.

Aid groups say foreign relief workers still face hindrances in reaching cyclone victims, especially outside Myanmar's largest city, Yangon.
Until now the U.N. had only one helicopter operating in Myanmar, and it flew six trips last week, Risley said.

Most supplies were being delivered by boats that took hours to travel short distances in the delta's network of waterways.

Risley said helicopters reached four remote villages Monday morning.

"These are areas that clearly have not received regular supplies of food or other relief assistance," he said.

Risley said four more WFP-chartered helicopters in neighboring Thailand were expected to fly to Myanmar this week, bringing to 10 the U.N. agency's total number of choppers in the country.

But the relief effort still faces myriad problems including a severe shortage of housing materials. Hundreds of thousands could be exposed to heavy rains as the monsoon season begins, aid agencies say.

"There's clearly a need for tarps and other roofing material, for anything that can help them rebuild their houses," Risley said, noting that rains have left many delta villages knee-deep in mud.

The U.N. estimates that Cyclone Nargis affected 2.4 million people warns that more than 1 million of them, mostly in the delta, still need help. The cyclone killed more than 78,000 people in impoverished Myanmar.

Myanmar's military junta has been criticized abroad for allegedly evicting cyclone survivors from refugee camps, supposedly without adequate provisions. The government has issued angry denials in state-run media that describe the accusations as lies meant to undermine the country's stability.

Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Need Food for a Year, UN Agency Says

By Paul Tighe

June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Cyclone survivors in Myanmar's Irrawaddy River Delta will probably need food aid for a year because last month's storm destroyed fields, preventing planting in the main food-producing region, a United Nations agency said.

``Households and farmers will likely require some form of food assistance through their next harvest, which could be up to a year away,'' Paul Risley, a spokesman for the World Food Programme, said in Bangkok yesterday, according to the UN's IRIN news agency.

An estimated 200,000 hectares (494,210 acres), or 16 percent of the agricultural land in the delta, was damaged by Tropical Cyclone Nargis, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization says. The region's five worst-affected states produce most of the rice, fish and pork for Myanmar's 47.8 million people.

International relief agencies are mounting an operation to supply more than 2.4 million people affected by the May 2-3 cyclone that left as many as 134,000 people dead or missing. Aid has reached only about a half of those in need because Myanmar's military rulers delayed permission for aid workers to travel to the delta after the storm, the UN says.

A tidal surge that swept about 35 kilometers inland during the cyclone resulted in saline damage to fields and other areas are still under water, the UN said.

Sowing Seeds

``We have to complete the sowing of seedlings by the end of July at the latest,'' IRIN cited Hiroyuki Konuma, the FAO's deputy regional representative in Bangkok, as saying yesterday. ``Otherwise, it will create tremendous damage to the production of rice.''

The livelihood of farmers will be threatened and, eventually, ``the national food security of Myanmar itself'' will be affected, he added.

Farmers need at least six months to replace lost food stocks, Risley said.

The UN was able to fly six of its 10 aid-carrying helicopters into the Irrawaddy delta, Agence France-Presse cited Risley as saying yesterday. Four more will probably start operating this week, he said.

The helicopters are needed because they speed up relief efforts to villages that are accessible only by boat, Risley said last week.

The Australian government rented four of the helicopters from a private South African company and Canada brought in four from Ukraine to form the WFP's helicopter team, he said last week. The WFP had managed to fly only one helicopter into the country since May 22. It reached the delta town of Labutta on June 2, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Tighe in Sydney at ptighe@bloomberg.net.

Myanmar group denies rumours of fish eating corpses in quake-devastated delta

YANGON (ST)- A MYANMAR government-affiliated group denied rumours that fish from cyclone-ravaged areas were unfit to eat after supposedly feeding on human and animals corpses, local media reported.

Since Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta last month, some people in Yangon - the country's biggest city - have been reluctant to eat fish because of rumours they were feeding on the bodies of storm victims.

One rumour circulating was that some fish were found to have human fingers and pieces of jewellery in their stomachs.

'This is not true. We can guarantee that,' Toe Nandar Tin, an executive member of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation, told the Myanmar Times newspaper in an article published on Monday.

She said that the freshwater fish from the delta come from fish farms, not the rivers, and that samples of fish were tested to prove they were safe for consumption.

She also added that the rumours resulted in the suspension of orders by some foreign buyers, but she did not elaborate. The main buyers of Myanmar's fish include China, Thailand and Singapore.

The Myanmar Fisheries Federation is an organization representing the private sector, but it is affiliated with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries.

About 55 per cent of the fishing sector in the country was destroyed, including 2,000 small boats and 329 offshore fishing vessels, according to the Times, a weekly English-language newspaper affiliated with the government.

Massive waves from the cyclone also devastated 37,000 acres of shrimp farms and about 3,000 acres of fish farms, it said.

The cyclone killed more than 78,000 people and left another 56,000 missing in the impoverished country. -- AP

UN Expert Urges Investigation Of Prisoners Killed In Burma

By Lisa Schlein - Geneva
09 June 2008

Schlein report - Download (MP3) audio clip
Schlein report - Listen (MP3) audio clip

(VOA News) - The U.N. Special Investigator into the Human Rights situation of Burma, also known as Myanmar, is calling for an investigation into the alleged killing of prisoners during the early days of Cyclone Nargis. The expert has submitted a report on violations in Burma to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, from where Lisa Schlein reports for VOA.

Photo AP: Tomas Ojea Quintana, 09 Jun 2008

Argentinian lawyer Tomas Ojea Quintana assumed his post as the U.N. Special Rapporteur on May 1. This was one day before Cyclone Nargis struck, leaving an estimated 134,000 people dead or missing.

He says this catastrophic event triggered a number of events, which have serious human rights implications. He says the day of the storm on May 2, about 1,000 prisoners in the town of Insein were forced inside a hall after their jail's zinc roofs were torn off.

He says many prisoners panicked and soldiers and riot police were called in to control the situation. He says they reportedly opened fire on the prisoners and a number were allegedly killed.

"It is not that they were trying to escape," said Quintana. "Under the Cyclone circumstances, they were trying to save their lives because apparently the Cyclone was hitting the prison. So, they were trying to save their lives. And, there are some reports that there are 30 or 40 perhaps, a number of killings in the situation in Insein prison."

Quintana is urging the authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation to clarify the facts and identify the perpetrators of those arbitrary killings.

The U.N. investigator is calling for the government to free all political prisoners, starting with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.

Burma's military rulers deny they are holding political prisoners, but Quintana says he has received reports of people having been detained while protesting the recent constitutional referendum. He says they are among 1,900 political prisoners, including monks rounded up after protests last September.

Photo AP: Zarganar (file photo May'06)

He says he is worried about the arrest of the popular Burmese comedian Zarganar, who had been leading some of the relief efforts after the Cyclone.

"I am very concerned because I do not know, so far, about his whereabouts. I do not know if he is in detention in the police station or where. So, I ask for clarification from the government on that," said Quintana.

Quintana has sharp words regarding alleged obstruction of humanitarian assistance to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. He says under international human rights law, if a country cannot provide for the needs of its people, then other means have to be found to assist them. He says aid should be allowed to flow freely to the victims.