Friday, 13 June 2008

Police extort money from Chinese oil dealers in Myitkyina

Chinese oil dealers in Myitkyina Township the capital of Kachin State in Northern Burma are being fleeced by the police, who are extorting money from them, locals said. (JEG's: ooops... Mother China won't be happy happy happy...)

The Burmese ruling junta's police stations have been extorting money from local Chinese oil dealers without batting an eye lid or caring for the relations of the two nationalities. All the policemen in the township Police Station No.1 and No. 2 are involved in the extortion racket, local oil sellers told KNG.

According to local oil dealers who stock and sell diesel and gas in downtown Myitkyina, they have to bribe the police squad led by a vice-police station officer to the tune of up to 500,000 Kyat (est. US $ 444) every month in order to procure permission to sell oil.

The township authorities do not allow selling of oil in the downtown limits. However oil dealers can sell petroleum products downtown by bribing the township police, oil dealers said.

Small-scale roadside oil shops outside the downtown limits are asked for 5,000 Kyat (US $ 4) to 10,000 Kyat (US $ 9) each time by policemen. Sometimes, policemen fill gas without paying the roadside oil sellers, local oil sellers added.

In Kachin State, Chinese oil imported from Laiza controlled area of the Kachin Independence Organization on the Sino-Burma border has been banned by the junta, but, oil consumers rely on Chinese oil rather than the state-owned Myanma Oil Corporation (MOC), local oil sellers said.

At the moment oil prices have been hiked in Kachin State and a gallon of gas has touched between 6,000 – 7,200 Kyats (US $ 5-6) whereas a gallon of diesel is now 6,800 to 7,500 Kyats (US $ 5 – 7). A gallon of diesel and gas prices were about 4,000 Kyat (US $ 4) in March.

In Kachin State, many residents rely on the illegal Chinese oil imports from Laiza rather than other businesses for their survival and the Chinese oil is imported to Kachin State by paying bribe to military authorities, local oil dealers said. (JEG's: Honest China won't e 'appy at all... oooopsa daisy...)

Police arrests 16 Rohingyas in Buthidaung

Buthidaung, Arakan State: The police from Buthidaung Town arrested 16 Rohingya villagers from Phone Nyo Hlake village of Buthidaung Township on June 4, at around 10 p.m. on the allegation that they had received money from foreign countries from their relatives, said a relative one of the victims requesting anonymity.

On being tipped off, seven policemen led by Naytin (area controlling) police officer from Buthidaung police station went to the village and arrested 16 Rohngya villagers while they were sleeping.

They were taken to Buthidaung Naytin police office where they were detained for two days to extort money. However, they were released on June 7, after being bribed kyat 100,000 for each person, said a trader in Buthidaung Town.

Police tend to arrest Rohingya villagers on the streets, while going to markets, and other places wherever they meet them on fabricated and concocted cases to extort money. In brief, Rohingy community has become their (police) income source, said a schoolteacher in the locality.

"Many youths are leaving the country to seek jobs in foreign countries because of persecution, restrictions on movement and unemployment in the homeland. They send money to their parents and relatives occasionally. Is it a crime?" a village elder asked.

Many villagers complained to the higher authorities, but they did not take any action against the perpetrators. The police are being encouraged to commit crimes against the Rohingya community, said another trader in Buthidaung.

Landslides hit Burma's 'Valley of Rubies'

LANDSLIDES caused by heavy rains have pounded Burma's famed "Valley of Rubies" - the source of some of the world's most prized precious stones, state media said today.
The landslides struck just six weeks after deadly Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma's Irrawaddy Delta and the main city of Rangoon, leaving more than 133,000 dead and 2.4 million in need of humanitarian aid.

The latest natural disaster hit far from the cyclone zone, near the northern town of Mogok, 675km north of Rangoon.

The landslides caused some injuries and property damage, but the government mouthpiece New Light of Myanmar newspaper gave no details.

"Yeni creek of Mogok overflowed and that caused landslide. There were injured and damages on account of the landslide," the newspaper said.

Authorities in the central city of Mandalay said they had not received any details on the landslides, citing the difficulties of communication in the remote region.

The paper said torrential rains had soaked Mogok town overnight and into this morning.

For the past 700 years, Mogok's "Valley of Rubies" has been mined for "pigeon blood" rubies - considered the finest in the world - sapphires and other rare gems.

A top-notch ruby can cost more per-carat than a diamond, and Burma's ruling junta is increasingly exploiting the gems as a key source of income, auctioning them off several times a year.

Despite Western sanctions on Burma over the regime's failure to introduce democratic reforms, the auctions attract buyers from China, Thailand and other Asian nations, who reportedly spend upwards of $US100 million ($A106.9 million) at each sale.

Report: Junta distributed land soon after Myanmar cyclone

By Glenn Kessler
The Washington Post

Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected Irrawaddy Delta to favored tycoons and firms, including some facing sanctions from the U.S. Treasury, according to a Myanmar magazine with close ties to the government.

Some of the most notorious business execs, including Tay Za and Steven Law, also known as Tun Myint Naing, were given control of "reconstruction and relief" in critical townships, under the leadership of top generals.

Treasury identified Tay Za as a "regime henchman" this year when it sanctioned hotel enterprises and other businesses he owns.

All told, more than 30 firms and 30 execs are to divide up the business in 11 townships hit by Nargis, the report said.

The document is dated May 9, a time when the United Nations, aid groups and many countries were trying to reach areas affected by the storm, which killed as many as 130,000 people and left 2.5 million homeless. Despite promises of greater openness, Myanmar's rulers have continued to impose restrictions on relief, according to reports from the region.

The document, which includes the cellphone numbers of many execs, appeared in the weekly Voice, a journal published by Nay Win Maung. A translation was provided by BIT Team, an India-based group that tries to promote information technology in the xenophobic country.

Nay Win Maung, the son of a military officer, was raised among Myanmar's military elites, giving him good connections, and his magazines can access government-related news and exclusive information.

"The Treasury is targeting the regime's cronies, and the regime wants its cronies to get the money," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

Efforts to reach Law or Myanmar representatives in Washington on Thursday were unsuccessful.

While some of the execs awarded contracts are known to human-rights activists and financial-crime experts, others are less prominent, making the document a possible guide to the individuals now in favor with the junta.

The government estimated it needed more than $11 billion in reconstruction aid shortly after the May 2-3 cyclone hit.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is rich in natural resources, but much of the country is poor. The junta has enriched itself with natural-gas fields that bring in $2 billion annually, as well as trade in jewels, heroin, amphetamines, timber and small arms.

Some of the conglomerates given business in the delta, such as Law's Asia World and Tay Za's Htoo Trading, were also tasked with building the country's new capital at Naypyidaw, more than 200 miles from the old capital of Yangon. With little notice three years ago, the junta uprooted the capital to a remote area, requiring massive construction of new government buildings, hotels and housing.

Australian PM pledges cooperation with Indonesia president

by Stephen Coates

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Friday promised a "new phase of cooperation" with Indonesia on disaster response and the environment during his first state visit to Jakarta.

Rudd praised the "very strong friendship" between the two neighbours after he met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and senior ministers at the presidential palace.

"Australia and Indonesia are neighbours through geographic circumstance but we are friends through active national choice, and this is a very good friendship," he told reporters after the talks.

He said the countries had agreed to broaden cooperation over nuclear weapons proliferation, climate change and disaster response.

The recent natural catastrophes in Myanmar, which was devastated by a cyclone in May, and quake-hit China underscored the need for a regional disaster response mechanism, he said.

"Indonesia has experienced the tsunami, the people of Burma (Myanmar) the terrible impact of the cyclone, the people of western China the earthquake most recently," he said.

"We do not know where a natural disaster will hit but between us we believe we can take a good and strong proposal" for a regional disaster-response system to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting next year, Rudd said.

The two leaders also discussed Rudd's plans for an EU-style Asia-Pacific Community to be set up by 2020 and to include the major economies of India, China, India and the United States.

He said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had provided a model of regional cooperation which could be expanded.

It was Rudd's first state visit to Indonesia since he defeated conservative prime minister John Howard in elections in November.

He flew into Jakarta late Thursday on the second leg of an Asian trip which started in Japan on the weekend. He will travel to Sumatra's Aceh province on Saturday to visit areas devastated by the 2004 tsunami.

Rudd and Yudhoyono signed an agreement on forests and carbon trading at the end of the meeting, reflecting the growing importance of climate change to the neighbours' relations.

The prime minister, who ratified the Kyoto treaty in one of his first acts after taking power from conservative premier John Howard in November, called climate change the "great economic, environmental and moral challenge of our generation."

Rudd lauded cooperation between Australia and Indonesia in fighting Islamic terror groups but refused to give a timeframe of when Australia might lift a travel warning against visiting parts of Indonesia.

"Indonesia and our future security cooperation will go from strength to strength as we continue in our common resolve to deal with our common enemy, which is terrorism," he said.

Scores of Australians were killed in terror bombings on the holiday island of Bali in 2002 and 2005, and the Australian embassy in Jakarta was attacked in 2004 as Canberra backed the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ties between Indonesia and Australia are regularly tested by suspicion on both sides, reaching a nadir in 1999 when Australian troops landed in East Timor to help restore order after the province voted to break away from Indonesia.

Current sore points include the treatment of Indonesian fishermen suspected of illegal fishing in Australian waters and the pending execution of Australian drug traffickers jailed in Indonesia.

Rudd's moves to withdraw troops from Iraq and ratify Kyoto have won broad favour in Indonesia after the more openly pro-US policies of Howard.

Fierce purity and the fate of Myanmar

Perfect Hostage A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience By Justin Wintle 464 pages. $27.95. Skyhorse Publishing.

There are not many countries whose stories are so intensely bound to the character of a single person, much less a person with no tangible power, not even the power to leave her house or receive a visitor or make a telephone call. Yet for nearly two decades, events in Myanmar (formerly Burma) have revolved around the condition, the policies and most of all the victimization of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, now 62, who has been held under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years. Hers is a symbiotic power, as Justin Wintle describes it in his aptly titled "Perfect Hostage," bestowed by the almost cartoonish thugs who have made her "an outstanding example of the power of the powerless," in the words of the former Czech president Vaclav Havel.

The State Peace and Development Council is a stereotypical military junta, brutal and efficiently repressive. But the generals, in a way, are as much hostage to Aung San Suu Kyi as she is to them. Their control of the country and its destiny has been constricted by her moral authority and personal magnetism, and by the continuing allegiance she inspires from people both inside and outside the country. Aung San Suu Kyi, though, is not simply an icon, and the sway she holds over her oppressors - and her supporters - is more complex than simple victimhood. This thoroughly researched biography sets out to explicate the personality of a leader who found herself by chance (though also by birth) at the head of her country's struggling pro-democracy movement. By delving into her childhood and her years as a student at Oxford University, Wintle, a journalist and the author of books on Vietnam, finds the seeds of her commanding personality, her straight-backed moral certainty and a "fierce purity" that gave her, as one friend said, "the knack of putting one on one's best behavior."

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of U Aung San, the independence hero of Burma (which was renamed by the current military junta). Though she was only 2 years old in 1947, when he was assassinated, she has described him as her model and inspiration. And it is this family connection that brought her - the nonpolitical wife of a British academic - to the forefront of the opposition in August 1988, when the nation was convulsed by a popular uprising and massacres by the military. The opposition coalesced around her in a political party named the National League for Democracy. It overwhelmingly won an election in 1990 that was annulled by the generals. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest even before the vote was held, and since then has been released for only brief periods.

"Perfect Hostage" suffers in places from the awe this brave woman inspires in those who write about her. Wintle sometimes employs jarring turns of phrase - he speaks of the Burmese people's chances of having "the generals' guts for garters" and suggests that if Aung San Suu Kyi is killed, "her sainted blood might trickle into Inya Lake." But the book presents readers with the complexity of Myanmar's history and its present tensions, and of Aung San Suu Kyi herself, who is described as both flexible and inflexible, ready to cooperate with her oppressors but unbending in calling for international sanctions against them.

The most provocative section comes at the end of the final chapter. Though it seems a bit of an after-thought, it attempts to explain what Aung San Suu Kyi has meant for the fate of Myanmar. Have her idealistic vision, her personality, her fortitude and her perseverance been a positive force, or have they held her nation back from the possibility of change? It is a difficult question to answer, both because Aung San Suu Kyi is so charismatic and her story so morally unambiguous, and because of a sort of political correctness that has come to characterize support for her.

But it is just this determined support, Wintle suggests, that may have inhibited the kind of moral and political compromises sometimes needed for history to move forward. Rather than embracing what he calls "Aung San Suu Kyi's strategy of highest principle," he says Western nations could have pursued a policy of economic and political engagement that might have drawn the generals out of their shells. "Counterproductive sanctions," he says, include "instances where rightly principled positions have turned into inflexible dogma - a charge sometimes leveled at Aung San Suu Kyi herself." This is a surprising finale to an admiring biography of one of the most attractive personalities of our time. But even if Aung San Suu Kyi fails as a democratic pioneer, even if she may have drawn her country and its critics down an unproductive path, Wintle says, she is one of the rare figures who have shown us what is good in ourselves as human beings. "Without her kind," he says, "we are all impoverished."

Seth Mydans covers Southeast Asia for The New York Times.

Quote on Empowerment

Poverty has been a big blow to our people's freedom…
A person who has no home, no education, who has nothing to eat,
and no clean water to drink can never say
he is empowered in his own country.

Reynato Puno, chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court

Burma Gives 'Cronies' Slice of Storm Relief

On Magazine's List of Junta's Chosen Tycoons Are Some Facing U.S. Sanctions

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer

Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected Irrawaddy Delta to favored tycoons and companies, including several facing sanctions from the U.S. Treasury, according to a Burmese magazine with close ties to the government.

Some of the most notorious business executives in Burma, including Tay Za and Steven Law, also known as Tun Myint Naing, were given control of "reconstruction and relief" in critical townships, under the leadership of top generals. Tay Za was identified by Treasury as a "regime henchman" this year when it slapped economic sanctions on hotel enterprises and other businesses he owns.

All told, more than 30 companies and 30 executives are to divide up the business in 11 townships in areas affected by Nargis, according to the report.

The document in the magazine is dated May 9, a time when the United Nations, aid groups and many countries were pleading with the Burmese government to allow access to affected areas in the aftermath of the storm, which killed as many as 130,000 people and left 2.5 million without homes. Despite promises of greater openness, the Burmese rulers have continued to impose restrictions on aid relief, including new and onerous identification requirements for aid workers, according to reports from the region.

The document, which includes the cellphone numbers for many of the executives, was published in the Voice, a weekly journal published by Nay Win Maung. A translation was provided by BIT Team, a group of India-based Burmese who try to promote information technology in the xenophobic country.

Nay Win Maung is a son of a military officer and was brought up among Burma's military elites, giving him good connections to military insiders. His magazines can access government-related news and exclusive information.

"The Treasury is targeting the regime's cronies, and the regime wants its cronies to get the money," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "They see it as an opportunity to profit from the international community's compassion. But these are not experts in providing relief; they are experts in running guns and drugs and making a lot of money."

Efforts to reach Burmese representatives in Washington last night were unsuccessful. The cellphone number listed for Steven Law in the Voice was answered by an associate who said he was not available.

While some of the executives awarded contracts are well known to human rights activists and financial-crime experts, others are less prominent, potentially making the document a guide to the individuals currently in favor with the military leadership.

The government estimated it needed more than $11 billion in reconstruction aid shortly after the May 2-3 cyclone, a figure that met with a cool reception at an international donors conference in Rangoon three weeks ago. Burma, also known as Myanmar, is rich in natural resources, but much of the country is desperately poor. The junta has enriched itself with natural gas fields that bring in about $2 billion in annual revenue, as well as trade in jewels, heroin, amphetamines, timber and small arms.

Some of the conglomerates given business in the delta, such as Law's Asia World and Tay Za's Htoo Trading, were also tasked with building the country's new capital at Naypyidaw, more than 200 miles from the old capital of Rangoon. With little notice three years ago, the junta uprooted the capital to a remote area, requiring massive construction of new government buildings, hotels and housing for civil servants.

Much of the country, in fact, is a forced labor camp, with more than 60 prisons, labor camps and detention centers, according to a report this year by the Burma Fund, an anti-government activist group. People forced into construction are paid minimal wages, if at all.

Hlaing Sein, an officer with the London-based Burma Campaign UK, said that Htoo Trading, which was given control of Heingigyum and Ngaopudaw townships, forced cyclone victims to work for 800 kyat a day, roughly 70 cents, in order to meet a government order to reopen schools by June 2. But a quart of water in the delta now costs the equivalent of $1.50, she said.

The Treasury sanctions against Tay Za, Law and other junta cronies -- and some of their companies -- freezes their assets and prohibits all financial and commercial transactions by U.S. entities with the designated companies and individuals, as part of an effort to break up their financial networks. The Treasury has released detailed charts about the financial links among the junta and Tay Za, Law and related associates.

Tay Za, whose businesses include timber, palm oil and aviation, is said to be close to Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the junta leader, in part because of his habit of hiring the children of powerful generals. The Bangkok Post recently reported that though no public warnings were made about the approaching cyclone, air force fighters and private passenger planes from Bagan Air -- believed to be a joint venture between Tay Za and Than Shwe's family -- were moved the evening before the storm from Rangoon airport to Mandalay, which was not in its path.

In Myanmar, a Times reporter worked in secret to cover the story

Aided by boatmen who risked arrest, the journalist saw what the government didn't want seen in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.

From La Times Staff Writer

June 13, 2008, KONG TAN PAAK, MYANMAR — From the far side of a murky brown river, the only moving thing visible on the ravaged landscape was a tattered maroon cloth, fluttering listlessly atop a tree stripped of its branches.

Two Buddhist monks had torn it from the only material they had, one of their own coarse robes. Its message was just as plain: "Alive! Please help."

Tropical Cyclone Nargis killed 300 people in this village, wiping away almost every trace of the people, their homes and a monastery. Surviving monks went to a relief camp, but after nearly three weeks, they figured that what they had fled couldn't be much worse.

So they took some of the meager rice rations they received from the military, came back and made themselves a tent by stretching tarps over a frame of fallen trees.

In the two days they had been living in it, our riverboat was the first to stop. My interpreter went ashore first.

When he confirmed that no soldiers or government officials were there, I crawled out of my hiding place.

Over the last 16 years, I have reported on famine, massive earthquakes and a tsunami. Cyclone Nargis is the first natural disaster that required working undercover to write about the hungry, sick and homeless.

Myanmar's military regime is suspicious of outsiders, fearing they are spies or that their presence could expose the fallacy of the government's claim to be an all-powerful provider of development and stability.

The May 2-3 storm killed at least 78,000 people. And 56,000 are missing.

More than a month after the cyclone, the government continues to deny unhindered access to the disaster zone for foreign experts, such as medical and water-purification teams, threatening thousands of lives, especially those of children, pregnant women and the elderly, the United Nations and other agencies say.

In the cyclone's aftermath, the regime was so determined to keep prying eyes from a landscape littered with corpses and people begging for help that it set up checkpoints on the main roads into the Irrawaddy River delta, which took the brunt of the storm.

The names and passport details of those caught were recorded before the vehicles were turned back. Local people accompanying them were interrogated.

But it's much harder to police the boats that ply the delta's labyrinth of rivers and canals.

The younger of the two monks, U Nya Tui Ka, 53, approached our boat, one of four I hired to take me to the delta during a month of visits, and was shocked to see a foreigner poking his head from the hold.

He assumed that help had arrived. His despair gave way to a broad smile, and then to disappointment as the interpreter explained that I was a reporter.

There was an unsettling silence. Not a birdsong, a dog's bark or a crying child could be heard -- only the wind and a few buzzing flies.

Standing in the blazing sun, chewing on a mouthful of betel, the senior monk, U Pyinar Wata, patiently answered our questions. The monks could make do with the little food they had, he said. After all, Buddha had taught that without craving, there is no suffering.

But the monks were worried about a few homeless children in their care. Together, the monks and boys were the only people on their side of the river for miles. Without fresh water, the monks feared, the boys might not last long.

What they all needed most, said Pyinar Wata, 60, was a pump and some diesel fuel to run it, so they could empty a 150-square-foot reservoir of seawater and corpses and let it fill with clean rainwater.

He might as well have been asking for a rocket to Mars.

We had traveled with some boxes of antibiotics, bottled water, packages of cookies and instant noodles to hand out. But those had run out early on the trip. All I had left was a camera, a tape recorder -- and sympathy.

We were eager to leave to stay out of the military's sight. But the monks wanted us to take pictures of the reservoir, see where they slept and cooked on a mud floor.

Most cyclone survivors were the same. They talked for as long as we would stay, pouring out their souls along with the tea, coconut juice or water they offered from their meager reserves.

When it was time to move on, the kindest of them said we had lifted a great weight just by caring enough to stop and listen.

The 30-foot boats I hired normally haul sugar cane, bananas or rice. No crew was willing to chance two trips, so after each four-night journey, we returned to Yangon, also known as Rangoon, switched boats and set out again.

The boats are not built for comfort.

The holds are open to leave room for cargo, which meant my only hiding place was the cramped space beneath the top deck.

About 15 feet across and 8 feet deep, with a wooden ceiling and peeling turquoise paint, it was a dark, sweltering cell barely big enough to sit upright in.

The pilots sat on the roof above me. One, to keep his hands free for frequent bottles of cheap cane liquor, pinched a steel pipe between his toes, deftly working the Chinese-made 18-horsepower diesel engine that spun a long-tail propeller sluggishly churning the water.

The machine pounded like a jackhammer. And since the four-man crew felt safer staying away from land, it thumped day and night, stopping only when we slipped into storm-ravaged villages.

Their courage braced by the cane liquor, the crewmen felt their way through the night. They poked at shallow channels with a bamboo sounding pole, comparing what they could see of the ruined landscape with foggy memories of trees that once pointed the way.

Sunset was also the signal for the boats' full-time occupants to come crawling out of the cracks. Cockroaches the size of mice and spiders with legs as long as crabs' feasted on the crumbs of our food. At times, so many bugs skittered around that it sounded like a gentle rain.

A green vine snake dropped in one night from an overhanging branch. The long, thin snakes are agile and only mildly venomous. A bite would be very painful but not fatal. Just the same, it would have blown my cover pretty quickly.

A crew member who usually worked the hand pump to clear the constant flow of bilge water beat the serpent to death. Carefully keeping it at arm's length, he tossed it overboard with a stick.

The bigger danger was that we'd be found out, which the crew feared would mean jail time. It almost happened twice.

While we were docked at the delta town of Mawlamyine Gyun, two policemen on foot patrol questioned the crew. The pilot said he was a rice trader, which apparently made sense to the officers even though the hold was empty and the cyclone had wiped out the rice crop.

They didn't bother to look into my hiding place, where I was cringing under a rough blanket.

Another day, we nearly pulled into a destroyed village to ask directions as two army officers were ordering people around.

Just yards from shore, the pilot throttled up and made a sudden U-turn as I ducked back into my cell. No one followed.

Otherwise, authorities were usually nowhere to be seen in the remote villages where the suffering was most severe.

Largely left to fend for themselves through weeks of living with decomposing bodies, scant aid and evictions from relief camps, many of the survivors began to lose something: their fear of speaking out.

Most are no longer afraid to openly criticize the military, to express anger that they once hid beneath a veneer of loyalty and obedience learned during 46 years of military rule.

Volunteers asserted new authority. An American aid worker, also working under cover, told of a local volunteer deliberately stepping on a military officer's toes to deliver rice directly to villagers instead of following orders and taking it to the township council.

Tens of thousands of volunteers collected donations in the cities, loaded supplies into vehicles and boats and headed for destroyed villages. They came back with photos and stories of what they'd seen, short-circuiting the junta's propaganda machine.

The regime's English- language newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar, praised the country's leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, for staying away from damaged areas for two weeks after the storm hit. It said his "farsightedness and genuine goodwill" let relief efforts proceed faster without him.

When he did go, his "warm words of encouragement . . . made downhearted victims happy," according to the report. "While watching the news and scenes of the Senior General cordially greeting the victims on TV, we, all the people, were pleased with the efforts of the government."

But in the cities, millions have heard from foreign radio broadcasts and Internet news sites that weren't yet blocked by the regime that the generals had refused to allow tons of aid on U.S., French and British warships to be brought ashore.

And they know that soldiers have forced people into trucks and dumped them back in ruined villages, and that despite promises to ease restrictions on entry to the country, their rulers are delaying the arrival of foreign experts and life-saving equipment.

Villagers are listening too.

One night, when several suggested we would be safer tying up to a tree in their creek than risking the busier river route, a man heard the crackling Voice of America and British Broadcasting Corp. on the interpreter's shortwave radio. He joined him on the roof of my hiding place and listened for several hours.

At dawn, when the pilot was cranking up the engine to a sputtering start, the man returned to ask a favor.

He didn't want food, medicine or water. He needed the radio so the whole village could hear.

So we donated it.

The writer, who recently completed an assignment in Myanmar, is unidentified to protect those who worked with him.

Sources for the early history of Arakan

(Circa 1st — 10th Centuries A.D)
Pamela C. Gutman*
Kaladan Press

Our sources for the early history of Arakan are remarkably similar to the sources for the same period of the history of Bangladesh. This, of course, is due to their geographical, proximity and the consequent cultural interchange between the two regions. In Arakan, the natural boundaries of mountains and sea protected a compact area suited to dry and wet rice cultivation, factors which led to urban settlement and centralized organization, while both sea and land routes made direct contact with India possible. The land route between China (including the Indian-influenced Nan-Chao), Burma and India passed through northern Arakan and its ports may have been outlets for the products of Upper Burma. Hence, Arakan was in an unique position as a centre for the diffusion of Indian culture, and her influence on the culture of the Pyu and Burmese centres of Srlksetra and Pagan must be evaluated.


Up to date no archaeological excavations have been undertaken in the area, although a survey was made by Dr. Forchhammer, the first Government Archaeologist in Burma in 1891.1 M. Charles Duroiselle, Director of the Archaeological Survey of Burma, visited Vesali and other sites briefly in 1920, and his successor, U Lu Pe Win, in 1940. From 1917 to 1923 the Honorary Archaeological Officer for Arakan, U San Shwe Bu, reported surface finds in the Report of the Director, Archaeological Survey of Burma (ASB). Since then, sporadic reports of new finds have appeared in ASB, notably in 1957-58, when a review of known data, was published.

Some information can be gathered from aerial photographs. Dr. Daw Thin Kyi, Professor of Geography at Rangoon Arts and Science University, has located the sites of seven cities dating, probably, from soon after the beginning of the Christian Era to 1784, and in her excellent paper2 has traced the evolution of town planning in northern Arakan. This information is now being verified by U Myo Myin Sein, Professor of Architecture at Rangoon Institute of Technology, who has undertaken a survey of Myohaung and other sites in the area.3

The earliest cities, contemporary with those in Burma proper 4, Central Thailand 5 and Bangladesh 6 occupy the well-drained foothill area of the ridge between the Kaladan and Lemro rivers. The first, Dhinnyawadi, (lat. 2O', 52” N,long. 93” 3" E) is accessible from the Bay of Bengal via the Kaladan River. Like the Pyu cities of Sriksetra and Beikthano there is an inner and an outer city, both surrounded by moats, the inner city probably being the palace site. The people lived in the outer city which enclosed the fields which they worked. The later city of Vesali (Burmese: Wethali) (lat. 20’40”N, long. 93’ 9”E) founded in the mid-fourth century7, is six miles south of Dhinnyawadi. Like the earlier city the outer walls, built of brick, are somewhat rounded and the inner city is rectangular 8.

A comparative stylistic analysis of these sites with contemporary sites in Bangladesh -Mahasthan, Mainamati, Ramkot and others awaiting excavation 9 - will do much to establish the nature of culture contacts between the two areas.


The only sculpture discovered so far at Dhinnyawadi can be dated by analogy with northeast Indian styles and by polaeography of the inscribed images to the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., and appears to belong to the Buddhist pantheon. As these sculptures are found within the precincts of the sacred Mahamuni Shrine, which is kept up even today, they probably belong to the Vesali period.

The sculpture found at Vesali includes both Hindu and Buddhist images closely connected to the various schools of northeastern India between the sixth and the tenth centuries A.D, Analogies may be drawn between this material and that of contemporary phases of the kingdoms of southeast Bengal, particularly Mainamati, and with the recent discoveries from the Ratnagiri site in Orissa10.

Bronzes in the Myohaung Museum, said to come from Vesali, show a close connection with the Pala School. Others in the possession of monasteries in the Akyab and Sandoway Districts show contact with Nepal and possibly Yunnan.


The inscriptions are obviously our most important primary historical sources. Those published. to date appear in Inscriptions of Burma,- Portfolio IV,11 and various issues of the Report of the Director, Archaeological Survey of Burma.12 A number remain unpublished. These are mostly fragmentary votive inscriptions now in the Myohaung Museum, although some monasteries and individuals are known to possess others.

The inscriptions fall into three groups. The prasastis, usually long, and written on stone columns, datable between the fourth and twelfth centuries, give us an outline of .the political history.13 The votive inscriptions belong to the same period, and are our most important source for the history of the religion. The copperplates are identical in nature to those found in Bangladesh from the sixth century, and are important for the reconstruction of socio-economic history.14

The language of all the inscriptions is Sanskrit, generally more correct in the land grants and king lists, showing that Brahmanical influence was strongest among the elite group at court.15 Local proper names are in an indigenous language which has not

Yet been identified, but appears to be related to the Tibeto-Burman group, possibly Mro, D.C Sircas has suggested that the words jala ans khal in sixth century copperplate are the Bangali words for channel and canal 16 .This differs from Javanese land agrnts for instance, where agricultural terms are indigenous but we cannot assume from this evidence alone that Arakan’s irrigation technology was derived from Bengak.

None of the inscriptions published: so far are dated, but judging by the script they appear to range from the fourth to the twelfth centuries A.D., very, soon after the first Sanskrit inscriptions appear in East Bengak and Assam. As. E. H. Johnston pointed out the palaeography of the inscriptions is, unlike the scripts of Burma proper, so closely related to the scripts of northeastern India that in dating them little or no time-lag need be considered.17


The coins of the period not only support the historical evidence of the inscriptions, but also suggest contact with north-eastern India, on the one side and Pyn and Mon centres on the other. The most important collections are those of the British Museum (which is based on the Phayre collection), the Indian Museum. Calcutta, and the White King collection now in the Hermitage, Leningrad; numerous private collections, some quite extensive, are to be found in Arakan and abroad.18

Although only silver was used, we find that the most important kings - those with comparatively long reign-periods, and whose economic base was firmly established - issued up to four denominations. Up till now the coins have been described as Saivite; as the usual type has a recumbent humped bull on the obverse and a trident-like symbol surmounted by the sun and moon on the reverse. However, we know from the seals of the Bhaumakara Kings of Orissa that the bull symbol was also used by Buddhist kings.19 By examining the earliest forms of the so-called trident, we find it was originally the auspicious sign of the Srivatsa, with the goddess Sri herself clearly depicted in the centre. This symbol was used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains from a very early period. Coins of the later Arakanese type found in Bangladesh are well known.20 Palaeographically and stylistically these are the immediate successors of the Arakaaese coins and a dynastic connection seems almost certain.


Numerous Arakanese chronicles survive, but none have yet been scientifically examined. Many have been printed, the most popular being U Pandi's Dhinnyawadi Yazawinthi:, 21 and still more exist in manuscript.22 Some of these manuscripts are now being reproduced by photo-offset, and it is to be hoped that Burmese scholars will soon publish translations. Extracts from, the chronicles have been published in various, journals, 23 the most important being reproduced, by Phayre and Harvey in their respective histories of Burma.24

These histories follow the Buddhist system of historiography. The earliest would appear to incorporate traditions current around the Pagan period, and more likely from the fifteenth century at the time of the founding of Myohaung. The earliest portions, which cover the creation of the present world, the founding of the Arakanese dynasties and the flying visit of Gautama Buddha to Arakan, are the result of a synthesis of local, Indian and Buddhist traditions. The extensive king-lists, which variously purport to start between, the fourth and second millenia B.C., may, like their Sumerian counterparts, refer to kings ruling concurrently in different areas, who were all included in a later consecutive list in an attempt to legitimize the dynasty. A comparison of the early sections of the chronicles with those of Ceylon will establish the extent to which Buddhist models were used. In the later portions historical data can be verified by comparison with Burmese, Mon and possibly Bengali25 sources. Manuscripts dealing with related subjects—the histories of shrines, astrology and Arakanese calendar and so on—should also be examined in this light.

Anthropological studies will help to elucidate the nature of the traditional histories. Problems of concepts of time, traditional relationships with, neighbouring peoples and ensuing cultural contacts, and even the history of cultivation methods can be solved with, the help of these, sources. A fine start on this work has been made by L. Bernot in his Les Paysans Arakanais du Pakistan Oriental-. I’histoire, le monde vegetalet I’organisation sociale de refugies Marma (Mog)( Paris 1967 ). The chronicles therefore, should not be dismissed as mere legend. An analysts of their contents, with, due regard to the Pali texts, traditional computation of time and their legitimizing function may prove to be as valuable as epigraphical evidence has been.

Apocryphal Geography

The apocryphal geography of Arakan—that is, the use of Indian place names as usual or alternate names for Arakanese districts, towns and rivers, etc.—may be of some use in establishing the mature of Indian influence. Duroiselle26 and Forch-hammer27 both discussed this subject in relation to Burma generally, but a specific application of their theories to Arakan is needed.

External Sources

The early history of Arakan can be augmented by foreign accounts. These are usually limited to descriptions of ports and local products, although occasionally we find references to foreign relations and unusual customs. Among the classical sources28 the best known is Ptolemy's Geography29 where Arakan is called Argyra. Ptolemy will have to be examined along with wheatley's contention that in its present form the Geography was probably compiled by a Byzantine author of the tenth or eleventh century.30 The Chinese sources—dynastic histories encyclopedias, travels- and topographies—although, usually indispensable, in the writing: of Southeast Asian. History, have not yet revealed significant information about Arakarn31. The Tibetan, historian Taranatha in his dGos-'dod-kun-'byiat (1608) 32 mentions Arakan among the 'koki' countries, which also included Bengal and Orissa. The Arab geographers of the eighth to tenth, centuries may give us a certain amount of information about sea-routes and trade once Arakanese place names can be identified.33


* Research Scholar & Tutor, Department of Asian Civilisation, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

1. Emil Forcbammer. Arakan [An account of archaeological discoveries. In three Parts.} (Rangoon 1891. Reprinted, Universities Press.Rangoon 1973).
2. Dr. Daw Thin Kyi, "Arakanese Capitals: A Preliminary Survey of their Geographical Siting", Journal of the Burma Research Society, Vol. L III, pt. ii, Dec. 1970 [ Published May 1973] pp. Iff. maps.
3. I am most grateful to the Department of Higher Education, Government of the Union of Burma, for enabling me to join Professor U Myo Myia Sein's expedition to Myohaung and Vesjll in March this year.
4. See U Aung Thaw, Historical Sites in Burma (Ministry of Union Culture, Government of the Union of Burma, 1972) pp.1-33.
5. See W. Solheim II's articles "Prehistoric Archaeology in Eastern Mainland Southeast Asia and the Philippines"; "Northern Thailand, Southeast Asia, and World Prehistory". Asian Perspectives, XIII (1972).
6. Nazimuddin Ahmed, Mahasthan, Department of Archaeology, Karachi, 1964; F.A. Khan. Mainamati, Karachi [ n.d. ]
7. cf. E. H. Johnston. "Some Sanskrit inscriptions of Arakan". Bull. S.O.A.S., Vol. XI, pt. 2, pp. 357-35. D.C. Sircar. "Inscriptions of the Chandras of Arakan",Epigraphia Indica. Vol. XXXII, pt. 3 (July 1957) PP. 103-109.
8. The later cities—Sambawak (Pyinsa) Parein, Launggret, and Hkrit - a series of small capitals to the west of the Lemro River, date from the early eleventh, century. Myohaung (Burmese Mrohaung; old Arakanese Myauk-U) founded in 1430 between the Kaladan and Lemro Rivers, is important in the history of Medieval Bengal.

cf. Burma Gazetteer. Akyab District, Vol.A. Reprint, Rangoon 1957 and the British Burma Gazetteer, Vol.II, Rangoon 1879.

1. M. A. Ghafur "Archaeological Research in Bangladesh", Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Vol. XVII,No. 1, (April, 1972) pp. 16-26.
2. Indian Archaeology—A Review, 1958-59.
3. Collotype reproductions made by Oxford University Press, Rangoon, Oriental Studies Publications No. 5, 1956. For inscriptions from Arakan see Plates 346-353.
4. See above fn. 7. For a review of inscriptions found in Arakan to 1959, see ASB for 1958/59. The Candra copperplate described by D. C. Sircar in Epigraphia Indica, XXXVII, pt. 2 ( 1967) pp. 61-66, also appears in ASB 1963/64.
5. E. H. Johnston, op. cit.
6. D.C. Sircar, op. cit. An excellent assessment and bibliography of the copperplate inscriptions in Bangladesh is given in Barrie H. Morrison's Political Centres and Cultural Regions in Early Bengal. The Association for Asian Studies Monographs and Papers No. XXV, University of Arizona Press. (Tucson 1970 )
7. D.C; Sircar claims that a fragmentary inscription from Vesali is in Pali. However, a close examination of the stone, which is badly damaged, gives us no reason to suppose that the language is not Sanskrit, See E.I., XXXII. Pt. 3,(July1957) pp.103 ff.
8. E.I. XXXVII p. 64
9. E. H. Johnston.op- cit., p. 360. s. a. S.N. Chakravarti. "Development of the Bengali Alphabet from the Fifth Century A. D. to the End of the Mohammadan Rule". Journal of the RoyaL Asiatic Society of Bengal, Letters Vol.IV (1938) pp-. 351-391 and A, H. Dani, Indian Palaeography (Oxford 1963)
10. The most important publication on the subject ate: A. Phayre,"Coin of Arakan of Pegu and of Burma" Numismata Orientalia, Vol. 2 pt.1(London 1882);V.A Smith Catalogue of Coin in the Indian Museum, Calcutta Vol.1 (Oxford, 1906);C. Duroiselle, Catalogue of Coins in the Phayre Provincial Museum, Rangoon, (Rangoon1924); E.H Johnstion, op.cit. pp.382-385 and. pi. V; 13-

C. A. Rustom. "Some Coins of Arakan" Nation Supplement [Rangoon] 11th Nov. 1962; R. D. Banerji. "Unrecorded kings of Arakan", J.A. SM. (N.S.)XVI (1920) p. 85; A.H. Dani. "Coins of the Chandra Kings of East Bengal", Journal of the Numismatic Society of India. -VoL XXIV, (1962), pp. 141-2.

1. E.I. XV, p.1; XXVIII, p. 211.
2. A.H. Dani, op. cit. and his "Mainamati Plates of the Chandras", Pakistan Archaeology, Vol. Ill (1962) pp. 22-55.
3. U. Pandi. Dinnyawadi Yazcnointhit (Rangoon, 1910).
4. While most of these are in private or; monastery collections, the Universities Central Library. Rongoon, also has a number. The Archaeological Survey Library in Rangoon has a handwritten copy of the Raksapura Yazawin dated 1873.
5. Charles. Paton, "Historical and Statistical sketch of Arakan", Asiatic Researches, XVI (1828) pp. 353-381 ; G.S. Comstock "Notes on Arakan, by the late ...... in the country from 1834 to 1844” Journal of the American Oriental Society, I (1851) pp. 219-258 ; Phayre, A. ••On the, history of Arakan;"; / AJSJ^ XU?. t (1844) pp. 25-52 ; A.S.B, 1917/18. pp. 12-13 ; I920. p.17.
6. A. Phayre. History of Burma (London, 1883, reprinted London 1967). G.E. Harvey, History of Burma (London. 1925.. reprinted. London 1967).
7. J.C. Ghosh in his article "Candra Dynasty of Arakan”, Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol. VII (1931) p. 39, mentions possible references to Arakan in the Kulaji books of the Varendra Brahmanas of Bengal.
8. "Apocryphal Geography of Burma” ASB (1922) 23, pp. 15-22.
9. Notes on the Early History and Geography of British Burma II The First Buddhist: Mission to Suvannabhumu (Rangoon, 1884) and his Arakan ,pt 3, which includes, a list of towns, given in the Sappandanakarana.
10. For these see G. Coedes Textes d’auteurs grecs et latins relatifs a l’Extreme Orient depuis le 4e siecle av.J.C jusqu’au 14e siecle (Paris,1910)
11. There are numerous editions of the Geography e. g. C, L, Stevenson, The Geography of Clauditus Ptolemy, English trans. with map (N.Y. 1932)
12. Paul Wheauey. The Golden Khersonese (Kuala Lumpur. 1961) p. 138.
13. For Chinese sources on Burmese history, tee G. H. Luce's articles in Journal of the Burma Research Society, Vol. XTV, Pt. II. viz "Fu-kan-tu-lu", -The Tan (95-132 A.D.) and the Ngai-Lao" "Countries Neigh-bouring Burma", and Vol. XXIX, Pt. 3 (with U Pe Maung Tin) ' History of Burma up to the Fall of Pagan".
14. A new translation of the 1946 Potala edition has been made by Lama Champa and Alaka Chattopadhyaya edited with extensive notes by Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya under the title of Taranatha's History of Buddhism, Indian Institute of Advanced Study (Simla, 1970). For Arakan, see pp. 330-1. (fol. 129A-130A).
15. See M. J. de Goeje (ed.) Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicum.(Leiden. 1810-94).

Source: Journal of the Bangladesh Itihas Samiti, Vol. II, 1973. pp. 93-101.

Soldier shot dead officers over sharing extortion money at Irrawaddy project


The Burmese soldier, providing security to Chinese inspectors at the Myitsone dam project of the Burma-Asia World Co., Lt. in Irrawaddy River confluence in Kachin State in Northern Burma, shot dead three army officers over a dispute relating to sharing extortion money on June 6, local sources said.

The soldier Phoo Zaw shot dead the officers in the military post beside Asia World Co., Ltd. camp, 17 miles north of Myitkyina the capital of Kachin State at about 9 p.m. local time after he came back from security duty, residents of Myitsone area told KNG today.

Two corporals died in the military post and a sergeant was seriously injured. He died later in Myitkyina Public General Hospital, the villagers of Tang Hpre in Myitsone said.

All soldiers in the military post were from Burma army's Infantry Battalion No. 297 based in Shahtuzup village in Hukawng valley and they arrived at the Myitsone since early last month, the locals said.

According to local Burmese military, the shooting had nothing to do with security of the dam project. It was a fall out of an argument between soldiers and officers over sharing extortion money.

In the name of providing security at the Irrawaddy Dam project, the Burmese military post forcibly collected money from civilians in the Tang Hpre (Myitsone) ferry station. The soldiers collect money for all goods on ferries crossing the Myitsone Ferry Station. Rafts made of timber sail on the water and the soldiers stop it and collect money. Money is also extorted from gold mines around the Myitsone, a local businessman told KNG.

The soldiers extorted least 1 million Kyats (est. US $ 889) monthly from the Myitsone ferry station alone and they also collected money from cane trucks from Putao on the Myitkyina-Putao car road, local businessmen added.

Last year on November 23, a senior Chinese engineer fell to his death on the Mali-N'mai Rivers' confluence (Irrawaddy Confluence) while he was on inspection.

Rev. Brang Nu, Chief Baptist pastor in Tang Hpre village talking about the death of the Chinese engineer and the latest shooting at the Burmese army post said, "I believe that these incidents are unusual and are the acts of God because we Tang Hpre villagers pray every time and we also observe no food prayer service programme monthly for a halt to the dam project at the Myitsone."

Rev. Brang Nu said that the Myitsone also called Mali-N'mai Zup in Kachin is an invaluable natural heritage and they have decided to pray till the dam project stops. This is all we can do at the moment, he added.

Ethnic Kachins and residents of Myitsone officially appealed to Burmese junta supremo Senior General Than Shwe through the Kachin National Consultative Assembly (KNCA) to stop the Myitsone hydroelectric power project in 2006 but no response has been received yet, according to villagers of Tang Hpre.

Jointly the Ministry of Electric Power (1) of the Burmese junta and China's China Power Investment Corporation (CPI), have planned to build seven hydropower plants in Mali River and N'mai River in Kachin State.

Of them Myitsone is the biggest project and will generate an estimated 3600 MW of electricity, according to the junta's state-run media.

Till now, the killer soldier has not been captured and Burma Army's Myitkyina Military Strategic Command has been ordered to find the killer soldier by the junta's Kachin State Command Commander Maj-Gen Ohn Myint.

NLD members made to sign agreement

Jun 12, 2008 (DVB)–One of 15 National League for Democracy members freed from detention on Monday said they had to sign a document before their release agreeing not to take part in further protests.

Htet Htet Oo Wai and the other NLD members were arrested on 27 May for taking part in a protest calling for the release of NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Her 12-year-old son, Ye Yint Min Htet Oo, was detained along with the group.

Authorities asked them to sign an agreement acknowledging their detention and accepting that they would face punishment under the law if they committed further violations.

"We asked them to delete the lines about facing punishment under the law, but they said we had to sign it to be released and that it had nothing to do with what we did in future," she said.

Htet Htet Oo Wai said police had interrogated the detainees and seized 11 farmers’ hats and six traditional jackets worn during the protest.

"During our two-week detention, we were interrogated for two days,” she said.

“They asked us why we decided to do it and who the hats and the jackets belonged to.”

Htet Htet Oo Wai said the interrogation officers were polite to the detainees and treated them well.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

USDA joins cyclone efforts to boost image

Jun 12, 2008 (DVB)–The Union Solidarity and Development Association has begun to send its members to participate in relief efforts, possibly in a bid to counter criticism of the group, one commentator said.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that 264 youth members of the USDA would carry out reconstruction tasks in cyclone-hit areas of Irrawaddy division.

The USDA members were dispatched on 10 June in six teams, each supported by government IT technicians, and have been supplied with first aid kits, tools, cooking utensils, drinking water and toilet construction materials.

The article did not specify whether these items were donated by the USDA or provided by private or foreign donors.

Htay Aung, director of the research department of the Thailand-based Network for Democracy and Development, said the move was part of the USDA’s strategy to play more of a political role.

"Since the time USDA leader general Htay Oo said the group could transform itself into a political organisation if necessary, the USDA members have been participating in social and development activities," Htay Aung said. (JEG's: it is in the NC document, they are one of the 4 junta groups to be created)

"In order to do that, they put pressure other social organisations such as the Free Funeral Service Society so that they can take over their roles."

Htay Aung said that the USDA’s reputation had also suffered from its role in pressuring voters to support the military regime’s constitution in the May referendum.

"The USDA was unable to participate in the beginning of the relief efforts for cyclone victims because they had to prioritise winning a lot of 'Yes' votes for the referendum that was held on May 10 and 24," he said.

"But now they have been under some heavy criticism and they want to respond to that by creating an impression that they have been enthusiastically participating in relief efforts, and so they began sending their members to the Irrawaddy delta." (JEG's: the turtle woke up)

Htay Oo is now in Rome attending the Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting. (??? has anybody invited him for wine and pasta,, we should...)

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Junta lays out guidelines for relief workers

Jun 12, 2008 (DVB)–New guidelines set out by the Burmese authorities for relief operations in the country are likely to make it even more difficult for aid workers to provide effective assistance to cyclone victims.

Relief organisations were summoned to the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development on Tuesday for a briefing by NPED minister U Soe Tha, who outlined the ten regulations.

The briefing was attended by government ministers and senior officials, invited resident representatives and officials from United Nations agencies and NGOs.

The guidelines require the work programmes of all NGOs and UN agencies to be approved by the relevant Township Coordination Committee and government ministry, as well as by the Tripartite Core Group made up of representatives from the regime, ASEAN and the UN.

Relief workers will also need to provide regime officials with itemized lists of all aid supplies brought into the country and where they have been distributed.

Any field trips to affected areas must be approved in advance by the authorities and aid workers will be accompanied on their visits by government officials.

According to a situation report issued yesterday by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, international relief agencies are concerned that the guidelines will have an adverse impact on ongoing relief operations.

The UN has reportedly asked the military regime to explain the reasons for the new regulations and whether they would hinder ongoing assistance.

A relief worker who wished to remain anonymous told DVB that the purpose of the 10 guidelines – jokingly referred to by aid workers as the Ten Commandments – was to let the military regime know in advance what the organisations were planning to do and the details of their members and travel schedules.

The relief officer said that the new regulations would add to the difficulties already experienced by aid workers.

Soe Tha said the guidelines had been brought in to enable the government to keep records of the quantities and nature of aid received and where it had been delivered, and to avoid duplication of effort.

“Where there is no orderly and systematic distribution, it would lead towards duplication and uncoordinated activities should not take place in aid and assistance rendered to cyclone victims.”

The minister said that now that the initial relief phase was over, a claim disputed by many, reconstruction work could be carried out in accordance with normal systematic procedures.

Since Cyclone Nargis struck Burma on 2-3 May, relief agencies have faced visa and customs restrictions on personnel and aid coming into the country, and have been barred from travelling to affected areas.

Government assurances that all relief workers would be able to travel freely to give aid to cyclone victims were not backed up on the ground, and the latest guidelines suggest that restrictions are far from being eased.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw

Pyapon: One month after the cyclone

Relief Web

One month after Cyclone Nargis, survivors in many villages of Pyapon Township have yet to receive adequate aid and assistance for reconstruction of their homes and livelihoods from either local authorities or international agencies.

Situated on an inlet in the Irrawaddy delta, 75 kilometers (47 miles) southwest of Rangoon and 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Bogalay, Pyapon was directly in the line of the cyclone on May 2-3.

Up to 100 villages in Pyapon Township were hit, including Auk Kwin, San Pya, Kani, Phone Kyi Thaung, Pho Shan Gyi, Ka Byet, Nyi Naung, Thakya Hin-Oh, Ma Kyi Kan, Kyone Damin and Kan Seik.

An estimated 10,000 people were killed in the disaster and an unknown number are missing, according to an official at the Pyapon Township Red Cross Association.

The main livelihoods of the region—agriculture, fish farms, fishing and salt flats—were all but decimated.

In the days after the devastation of Cyclone Nargis, survivors gathered in 10 makeshift refugee camps in Pyapon, at the local football ground, in schools, monasteries and in surrounding pagodas.

However, the military authorities began closing down these facilities on May 23, forcing the refugees to return to their own villages. By the end of May, there were officially no refugee camps left in Pyapon Township, locals said.

Rural survivors who were sent back to their devastated villages generally received a small aid package each and the authorities organized a few sporadic reconstruction efforts, locals said.

"For shelter, it's not a big deal. We can cut bamboo and dani (nipa palm leaves) along the banks of the Pyapon River and use that for roofing,' the village headman of Tin Ma Lwe said. 'However, food and clothing are a big issue for us. The army came and distributed some items of food, but not enough. We had to draw lots to get a share. Private donations reached some villages, but others were left without anything.'

"Soon after the cyclone, a lot of donors came to offer assistance,' a villager from Pho Shan Gyi said. 'We got enough rice and beans to eat. But they didn't come back and now we have to survive on rice gruel. Some villagers must eat the rain-soaked rice."

Most villagers said they are unwilling to eat rain-soaked rice, since it has an unbearable smell and no taste.

Although the soldiers posted in the army camp at the Pyapon river mouth have provided some food assistance to nearby villages, it was minimal, villagers from Kani said.

"Since the cyclone, I have received just three pyi (0.75 liter) of rice from the army,' a 50-year-old housewife from Phone Kyi Thaung said.

Access to safe drinking water has always been an issue in Pyapon Township, even before the cyclone. Now, locals say, they must collect rainwater. Moreover, they said they have no cooking utensils or clothing.

"We need pots, pans and clothes,' a Kani villager said. 'We especially need sarongs and longyi, mosquito nets and blankets. Yet nobody comes to give us these things."

Meanwhile, the Hotels and Tourism Minister for Pyapon, Maj-Gen Soe Naing, arrived recently to oversee reconstruction efforts in collaboration with international agencies, local NGOs and privately contracted construction companies—namely Dagon International, Yuzana, Pyi Phyo Kyaw and Min Yazar, all of which are considered to be affiliated with the military government or owned by cronies of the junta generals.

Although Pyapon Township was not the hardest hit area on May 2-3, the survivors have not received as much assistance in emergency aid or reconstruction efforts as survivors in Laputta and Bogalay, said a young NGO worker who was volunteering in the worst affected areas.

'Turn Around and Go Back to Yangon'

Myanmar: Life Inside a Police State Since Cyclone Nargis

ABCnews Reporter's Notebook

YANGON, Myanmar, June 11, 2008 — The following dispatch was written for ABC News by a journalist who has been inside Myanmar. Out of concern for the reporter's safety, we are not revealing the reporter's name.

"No, no, no," says the military guard. He is sitting next to a roadblock with five other soldiers at his side. "You cannot go there. Foreigners cannot go there."

He looks at me, shakes his head and gestures at the road on the other side of the barricade. "You must have permission to go. Turn around and go back to Yangon."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, was hammered by Cylone Nargis some five weeks ago. The reclusive junta that governs this impoverished nation has been criticized by the international community for not doing more to help its own people recover.

More than 134,000 people are estimated to have perished in the storm, and there are, aid groups say, close to 2 million survivors.

The vast majority of these refugees are located in an area of the country where outsiders not attached to aid groups and foreign journalists are expressly forbidden.

More than a month after the cyclone struck, the government is still not allowing full access to international aid groups trying to bring supplies to those whose lives are still threatened.

Human rights groups say more and more of Myanmar's desperate citizens are now receiving aid, but that the plight of many has been met with a slow response from the junta.

The newest estimates suggest that as many as 35,000 pregnant women are at risk, and early estimates show that up to 40 percent of the storm's victims are children. And yet, despite an outpouring of aid from nations around the world, relief workers must battle mountains of red tape.

This roadblock illustrates the core problem: The government is wary of outside influences. Even traveling as a tourist, my appearance as a Westerner has doomed my attempts to move freely in Myanmar.

I am trying to get from Yangon, the nation's largest city, to the delta region in the south, home to the most serious suffering.

Earlier in the day, I asked several travel agencies if they could help me book passage to the affected region. But nervous Burmese travel agents tried to steer me toward more traditional sights in the north of the country before finally admitting that foreigners aren't permitted to venture to the south.

"I am sorry, I cannot help you," said one. "If you try to go on your own, there's nothing I can do for you."

Next I try crossing the Yangon River on my own, which is the gateway to the delta region. But when I get to Yangon's port, a public ferry official tells me that I can't board the boat because I'm an outsider.

Then I try chartering a smaller, private boat farther down the river. The captain agrees to take me, but then, as I approach his boat, a police officer appears and blocks my path, telling me to turn back. The officer says I must receive permission from the police headquarters nearby.

So I walk down the road to inquire there. But I am rebuffed once again.

In broken English, the police -- whose well-maintained headquarters stand in stark contrast to the rundown residential buildings elsewhere in the city -- explain to me that because I'm not traveling with an aid group, I cannot go.

"But I'm just a tourist, and I want to see what's on the other side of the river," I say. The officer's reply, which he repeats several times while leveling his steady gaze at me: "No."

Next, I hire a tour guide to take me to a region in the north of the city, so that I can take in the damage there. I will abandon, for now, my attempts to reach the delta.

Kyaw Win (not his real name), 30 years old, short and stout, says he'll take me. He says that the area to which we'll travel, while not as demolished as Myanmar's south, is still in sorry shape.

In many neighborhoods, homes have been ravaged by the storm, and while several dwellings have been patched up by their owners, trees have been swept to the ground, and residents are living with plastic sheeting as their only shelter from the frequent monsoon rains.

After a 45-minute taxi ride, we approach a village, and I get out of the car. One man is standing in front of a house that seems in relatively good shape, while what used to be a home on a plot of land next door is simply muddy water. He is fortunate to have a home; his neighbor, whose whereabouts are unclear, has lost everything.

The man is 35 years old. He works as a construction laborer. His house and his family survived the cyclone intact, he says, and he's still able to purchase food and water for his family.

I ask him if the government has done anything to help him. He says something in Burmese to Kyaw Win and then turns around and walks away.

"He doesn't want to talk about the government," Kyaw Win says.

Just then, a young man, perhaps 25 and dressed in a white button-down shirt and tan slacks, approaches us on a bicycle. He has a walkie-talkie dangling from his waist; the radio sticks out in a poor country where only a tiny minority of residents own mobile phones. He is a member of Myanmar's secret police.

"What is he doing here?" the man asks Kyaw Win, pointing at me. "He's just a tourist taking pictures of the houses after the cyclone," Kyaw Win says. I explain that I've already seen the pagodas and the other tourist attractions in the city, and that I'm simply curious about the countryside.

"But why are you taking pictures? Why aren't you in downtown Yangon? Where else have you gone?" I tell him, again, that I'm merely inquisitive.

Before we can walk away, the man produces an official-looking notepad. He demands my name, but I'm not carrying my passport or any other identification. He asks me the name of my hotel. And then, more distressingly in a country where citizens can be jailed for speaking with the media, he records Kyaw Win's name and address.

We learn that the police officer has already recorded the license plate number of the taxi we've taken to the village, even though our driver has parked it several hundred yards away. We return to the car and drive away. Kyaw Win speculates that as we were entering the village, another undercover police officer may have noticed us and radioed his cohort up ahead.

The secret police are a fact of life in military-ruled Myanmar. When local people who are bold enough to speak about political matters talk to foreigners, they do so in hushed tones, first glancing around to make sure their fellow citizens -- strangers who could be undercover police -- aren't listening.

I have told Kyaw Win that I'm merely a tourist, and he seems to believe me. But there are still risks in associating with Westerners in the storm-ravaged regions of the country, where few outsiders venture.

As we drive away from the dilapidated village, Kyaw Win and the taxi driver draw their heads together and confer for several minutes in Burmese. Kyaw Win sits back in his seat and turns to me.

"This could be dangerous for us," he says. "The police might come to our houses and ask us what we were doing with you."

I tell them I'm sorry. "It's OK. Don't be sorry," Kyaw Win says, smiling. "This is just how things are in Myanmar."

Burma has received only 56% of funds: UN


The UN set a goal of $US201.6 million ($A212.91 million) for its relief efforts but so far has received only $US113.2 million ($A119.55 million), or 56 per cent, from government donors, it says.

An additional $US51 million ($A53.86 million) in pledges has not yet been delivered, the UN said.

Funding shortfalls were particularly great for emergency food operations and education, it said.

"Funding is clearly not coming in at the rate we would hope," said Amanda Pitt, a spokeswoman for the UN relief operations. "Funding is urgently needed to sustain the pipeline for food and assistance."

Pitt said the UN hopes that funding will increase after a comprehensive assessment of the needs of the estimated 2.4 million survivors of the May 2-3 cyclone is finished by June 20.

About 250 experts from the UN, Burma's government and Southeast Asian nations headed into the Irrawaddy delta on Tuesday for the survey of 6,000 hard-hit villages. They will determine the food, water and shelter needs of the survivors, along with the cost of rebuilding houses and schools and reviving the farm-based economy.

The UN estimates that more than one million survivors, mostly in the delta, still need help more than five weeks after the cyclone struck. Cyclone Nargis killed more than 78,000 people in impoverished Burma and left another 56,000 people missing, according to the government.

Burma's military regime has asked for $US10.7 billion ($A11.3 billion) in foreign funds for relief and reconstruction.

Aid donors representing dozens of countries and regional organisations met late last month in Rangoon and agreed to provide some cyclone aid, but warned the military junta they would not fully open their wallets until aid workers are provided access to the hardest-hit areas.

The junta has since promised to allow international aid workers into the delta, but access to the area remains difficult.

Aid agencies say a new set of government guidelines introduced Tuesday for relief operations could further complicate and delay recovery efforts.

The guidelines, distributed by the government at a meeting of UN agencies and private humanitarian organisations, require repeated contacts with national and local government agencies and large amounts of paperwork.

Myanmar: Keep doors open for aid - Thakin Thein Pe

Chiang Mai - Freedom fighters and veteran politicians urged the Burmese junta today to allow aid workers and disaster management experts into the country to get adequate aid for cyclone victims.

The statement was made after they heard that relief materials have not yet reached remote cyclone ravaged areas even a month. Thakin Thein Pe turns 93 today.

"It is being heard that cyclone aid is not adequate despite the government's utmost efforts. The government should work for effective and adequate relief efforts for these hapless victims and should not forcibly close the door," Thakin Thein Pe said at his birthday party held at his residence in Rangoon today.

The birthday party was attended by political veterans such as Thakin (master) Hla Kun, Thakin Hla Myint, Thakin Thein Maung, Thakin Chan Tun and the top leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) such as U Soe Myint, U Nyunt Wai, U Myint Thein, and other renowned politicians namely U Thu Wai and U Win Naing among others accounting for about 100 guests.

The veteran politicians criticized the government saying that the current situation in Burma is worse than the pre-independence era. There is more violence and oppression, and the country is still far away from independence, peace, democracy, national unity and development which have been the aspiration of freedom fighters of their time.

The freedom fighters and their colleagues also issued a statement on May 22 which urged the government to take lessons from the exemplary role of Indonesia in its Tsunami disaster management. The Indonesian government gave free access to international aid agencies and relief experts to the disaster struck areas in 2004 though there were some domestic political problems in the country.

Thakin Chan Tun (87) said that they wish the government becomes flexible and adopts a softer attitude. The government usually does not take the veterans' statements and appeals seriously.

"We send all our statements and appeals to the government. We will urge the government about what they should do along with the international community. We notice the current military leadership doesn't care for anyone and do as they wish. We are waiting to see a change in their attitude to a softer and more flexible position.

According to a government report appearing in the state-run media, there are 569 international aid workers from the UN, INGOs and individuals now into relief work.

The UN said that it would take at least six months of relief work in cyclone ravaged Irrawaddy delta region. But the government said the emergency rescue and relief work is over in that area and it is now working on reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Meanwhile the 'Tripartite Core Group' (TCG) reached remote villages in Irrawaddy delta region and said that the villages still need aid. TCG comprises of UN, ASEAN and Burmese government officials and they are now carrying out a survey and up-to-date joint assessment in the delta region.

Relief Web

As donors disappear, cyclone survivors fend for themselves

Web Relief

As private donors disappear from cyclone-affected areas of the Irrawaddy delta, residents of Bogalay, one of the hardest-hit towns in the disaster zone, say that they are struggling to rebuild their homes by themselves.

Many residents said that they were using old materials to repair or rebuild their homes, despite an abundant supply of new materials available in local shops and at the homes of businessmen and members of the Township Peace and Development Council.

‘When I went to buy corrugated zinc sheets to cover my roof, they [township authorities] sold it to me for 780 kyat (US $0.68) per foot,’ said Wa Yint, a local resident.

‘I have to rebuild my house using old zinc sheets. But for parts of my house that were badly damaged, I needed some new sheets,’ he added.

Residents said that outside assistance has come to a complete stop more than five weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck the region on May 2-3.

‘In May, five or six donor groups came to donate supplies every day,’ said one resident. ‘They came with six to twenty trucks a day.

‘But from the beginning of June, the number dwindled to one group every two or three days. Now they have completely disappeared. They stopped coming two days ago,’ he added.

Bar Ku, a local donor in Bogalay, explained: ‘In Burma, it is not possible for citizens to feed one another for a long time. Everybody has to struggle for their daily survival.’

‘Who can feed them everyday? I don’t think private donors can afford to donate any longer,’ said a local aid donor in Laputta, another seriously affected town in the delta.

He added, however, that Buddhist monks are still active in relief efforts, delivering food and supplies to survivors in the outskirts of Laputta.

Sources also said that monks have played a key role in helping private donors to get past restrictions imposed by Burmese authorities.

Last Saturday, a group of
local donors who traveled to the delta town of Pyapon were stopped at a checkpoint, but were later given permission to go through after they explained that their aid supplies were going to local monasteries, according to Ma Nyein, a friend of a member of the aid group.

She added that the donors were told by the authorities—members of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Swan Ah Shin militia group—that they should hand over the supplies directly to them.

Ma Nyein is the sister-in-law of Burma’s best-known comedian, Zarganar, who has played a prominent role in distributing aid to victims of the cyclone. She said that on one occasion, on May 15, she and her brother-in-law were forced to give aid supplies directly to the authorities.

On subsequent trips, however, they were accompanied by monks, who said that the aid supplies were going to monasteries.

‘When the monks asked them not to block us, they allowed us to go through,’ she said. ‘They don’t dare to confront the monks.’

Tin Yu, a resident of Rangoon’s Hlaing Tharyar Township, agreed.

‘Five days ago, local authorities stopped us when we tried to deliver aid to victims,’ he said, adding that they were only allowed to pass after a monk from Aung Parahita Monastery suggested that they make the donation through his monastery.

Pyinya Thiha, a senior monk at Thardu Monastery in Rangoon’s Kyeemyindaing Township, said that he and his group were recently approached by local authorities in a village near Laputta, but he was able to continue his journey.

‘They [the authorities] came and asked some questions. But they asked us politely, so we replied politely. If they had asked rudely, we would have replied in the same manner. We didn’t face any difficulty,’ he said.