Tuesday, 17 June 2008

DVB News - 16 Jun'08

Diesel fuel needed to restart farming

Phyar Pon cyclone victims fear food shortage

Authorities sell farmers donated tractors

Writer Zaw Thet Htway arrested

International celebrations for Daw Suu's birthday

ILO to take a more active role in cyclone reconstruction

Blogger Nay Phone Latt being reinvestigated

Phanida - Mizzima

16 June 2008, Chiang Mai – The Burmese military junta authorities are reinvestigating blogger Ko Nay Phone Latt who has been in custody for about five months.

He was interrogated twice without being produced in court soon after Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma and again yesterday for his blog.

Liverpool fan Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt. The Burmese military junta authorities are re-investigating blogger Nay Phone Latt who has been in notorious Insein jail for about five months.

"He was interrogated inside the prison. He said he was interrogated twice. He was asked about his blog and if he had a pseudonym. They said that some writers post their articles and news under pseudonyms while some use their own names such as Sayama (former lecturer) May Nyein and Dr. Lunn Swe. They asked him if they knew them," Daw Aye Than, his mother who visited him in prison today, told Mizzima.

"It's strange that he was being questioned again and again. I think they are trying to frame him and charge him in court with a crime he didn't commit. As far as I know, he's never sent any news outside," she added.

The blogger Ko Nay Phone Latt was arrested on January 29 this year and the authorities lodged a case against him under section 32(b) of the Video Act.

His defence counsel U Aung Thein submitted an application to the Insein prison authorities to get power of attorney from his client and sought permission to meet him.

A source in the Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed that Ko Nay Phone Latt was questioned again and the authorities wanted information regarding anonymous blogs posted from Burma, Mizzima has learnt.

A special meeting of Special Branch police officers was held recently in Rangoon and crackdowns against pro-democracy activists followed soon after.

"We have to submit an application to the prison authorities. We never got a chance to meet him. We applied after seeing the statement posted on the notice board suggesting he would be permitted to meet his counsel. I will represent him in court and meet him when it is permitted which is usually on working days," U Aung Thein said.

"He was charged under the Video Act section 32(b). I think the authorities are interrogating him only for his blog. But he has not been produced in court. It seems the authorities are trying to frame him in another case as their first case under section 32(b) of the Video Act does not hold much water. He was first charged under this section just to keep him in custody. The authorities could find only a video disc of 'Ahnyeint' (variety dance show) performed in Singapore when he was taken away from his home", Daw Aye Than added.

Twilight of the Idle Regime

The Irrawaddy News

I lived in a military compound during my youth, when my father was an army officer and Burma was still ruled by the Burmese Socialist Party Program under Gen Ne Win.

In the final years of the Ne Win regime, two incidents occurred which I can still remember very distinctly. One was a storm warning that put everyone in the small-town base where we lived on alert. When the storm hit, soldiers were ordered to patrol the town to come to the assistance of any who might need it. This included not only government officials, but also people living in surrounding villages.

The other episode involved a major fire which destroyed several buildings and threatened many lives. Soldiers were promptly sent to prevent looting and to save children and the elderly from the conflagration. They also quickly tore down thatched roofs to prevent the fire from spreading uncontrollably.

As dramatic as these events were, however, they don’t compare to the night of May 2-3, when Cyclone Nargis tore through Rangoon. Fortunately, my family and I live in a flat about half-way up a tall building, so we were safe from danger. But after we put our children to bed, my wife and I spent a sleepless night, on constant watch like two soldiers who did not want to miss the battle raging all around us.

Outside we saw taxis and small cars driving with great care, as if they were clinging to the asphalt for all they were worth. Sheets of corrugated zinc flew through the air like paper. We even saw a few foolish people trying to walk in the streets, struggling against the incredibly powerful wind and rain. We worried ceaselessly about our friends and relatives in other parts of the city.

The next day, I was even more surprised by what I saw—or rather, by what I did not see.

Rangoon looked like a battleground, with trees toppled everywhere. Roads were impassable, and the city was at a standstill. The only signs of life were Buddhist monks—some of them helped by youths in their distinctive hip-hop garb—cutting the massive trunks and branches with handsaws to make them easier to clear from the roads.

Instinctively, I looked for soldiers, who were never in short supply in military-ruled Burma (whereas monks have been noticeably less visible in Rangoon since last September, when they dared to challenge the ruling regime’s authority). But they were nowhere to be seen.

Where were the soldiers? Some people suggested that they were waiting for orders from the generals. But I knew from experience that orders from on high were not required in these circumstances. Any commanding officer could have put his men to work. After all, the natural response to a natural disaster is action, not paralysis.

Personally, I suspected that the soldiers were reluctant to show themselves because they believed that the cyclone had been sent as punishment for their actions last September, when they mistreated and killed Buddhist monks. Many ordinary Burmese had suggested as much, half in jest, but perhaps the soldiers really believed it and were afraid to face the wrath the nature.

Meanwhile, we started to hear horrific stories coming from the Irrawaddy delta, which was much more severely affected by the cyclone than Rangoon. We received this news via the BBC and VOA: Local radio stations and the state-run television station were silent on the impact of the disaster in the delta. Like many other people in Rangoon, we started to think about ways to help.

When it came time to take action, we followed the example of the ’88 Generation Students group, which initiated last year’s protests by boycotting public transport after the government suddenly raised fuel prices and bus fares. Like them, we decided to bypass the government’s belated relief efforts (which came only after thousands of cyclone victims had needlessly perished in the crucial days after the cyclone hit). Instead, we entrusted our donations to monks, who had worked side by side with us as we tried to bring our lives back to normal.

It was not until two days after the cyclone struck that the soldiers finally made an appearance on the streets of Rangoon. Young captains commandeered the municipal government’s heaviest equipment to remove trees from the roads. They even used these machines to move small branches, in a show of their immense efforts to help the people.

Then Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein was named “president of the national committee for natural disaster mitigation.” It was all very impressive.

Of course, this was also the week before the referendum, when the generals were giving us a chance to vote for their constitution. With the aftermath of a major disaster on our hands, however, no one had any interest in the referendum, the outcome of which was decided in advance, in any case.

But we were surprised that the regime didn’t at least try to win support by making a serious effort to help the people in the delta. Apparently, it didn’t matter much what voters thought, since “victory” was already in the bag.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring China, a major earthquake struck, and the world witnessed a dramatically different response to a deadly disaster. It is ironic that in China, where the ruling Communist Party does not even pretend to be democratic, the authorities paid far greater attention to public opinion than the generals in Burma, who were trying to make everyone believe that they were steering the country towards democracy.

It is also ironic that, at a time when they were trying to impose a new constitution on the country, the regime showed its disdain for rule of law by illegally extending Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest.

This was not only another slap in the face of Burmese voters, but also another lost public relations opportunity. Suu Kyi’s sentence ended the same weekend that international donors were in Rangoon, ready to pledge generously to relief and reconstruction efforts in the delta. Snr-Gen Than Shwe wanted $11 billion in aid, no strings attached. But he was unwilling to show good faith by honouring a previous promise to the international community that he would negotiate directly with Suu Kyi to achieve national reconciliation.

Burma under its current rulers makes the Ne Win era seem almost a model of competence and efficiency. If there is any consolation to be drawn from this experience, it is that the junta has shown its weakness, and sown the seeds of its future downfall.

With the military hiding from its own shadow, and the people defiantly taking the initiative, the ruling generals must be having many sleepless nights. If they doze off again, they may one day wake up to find that they are the casualties of a crisis of their own making.

Rumors of New Catastrophe Sweep Rangoon

The Irrawaddy News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student activists helping Nargis victims arrested

New Delhi: The Burmese military junta authorities detained at least three members of 88 Generation Students last Thursday.

Three senior members, one man and three women- Myet Thu, Yin Yin Wai and Tin Tin Cho who were into cyclone relief efforts and aid distribution were arrested while they were sitting in a teashop in Maynigone, Rangoon.

"They were in a tea shop waiting to discuss aid with monks when unknown people came and said they were representatives of the monks and took them away. They have disappeared," said a relative of Yin Yin Wai who requested anonymity. The relatives do not know their whereabouts.

The Special Branch of the police which has been after the dissidents had searched the house of those detained at least twice and asked their family members about the lists relating to cyclone aid distribution in Irrawaddy and Rangoon division.

"Around 15 officials including the police searched twice on June 14 and 15 and they asked us where the aid funds were and demanded to see the ledger," she said.

The 88 Generation Students have formed a team which is called Myitta Paung Ku. It has distributed aid at least six times to cyclone survivors.

"They searched the entire house and took some newspaper pictures of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The second time they asked for the laptop," said another family member.

88 Generation Students are known to be supporters of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Their top leaders are being detained in jails after the mass uprising in August last year.

Meanwhile, an NGO staffer told Mizzima that the police are patrolling around their office in Inyamyaeing Streets in Rangoon. His organisation is distributing aid in Irrawaddy delta.

The junta arrested a well know comedian Zarganar (tweezers in Burmese) on June 4 and former First Eleven weekly journal Editor Zaw Thet Htwe last Friday. They were both distributing relief material in Irrawaddy delta.

Relief Web

Call for release of magazine chief editor and blogger held for distributing aid to cyclone victims - Zaw Thet Htwe

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association condemn the arrest of Love Journal chief editor Zaw Thet Htwe on 13 June for assisting in the distribution of food and clothes in areas hit by Cyclone Nargis. While editor of the sports magazine First Eleven Journal in 2003, he was arrested, tortured and sentenced to death, and then pardoned by the supreme court.

‘Zaw Thet Htwe is a respected journalist who was moved by the woes of his compatriots after the cyclone,’ the two organisations said. ‘Banned by the military government’s censorship from writing openly about the tragedy in his magazine, he decided to act. We urge UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon to intercede with the Burmese authorities so that civilians distributing aid should no longer be treated as criminals, and so that the Burmese and international media should be allowed to operate freely in the cyclone-hit areas.’

At least eight journalists and one blogger are currently in prison in Burma.

Zaw Thet Htwe was arrested by members of the military police while with his seriously-ill mother in the central city of Minbu on 13 June. The police searched his home in Rangoon yesterday. His wife, fellow journalist Ma Khine Cho, told Democratic Voice of Burma, an exile radio station, that the police confiscated his mobile, phone, computer and various documents.

Like the comedian and blogger known as Zarganar, Zaw Thet Htwe had been helping to channel relief to the victims of the Cyclone Nargis. Zarganar was arrested on 4 June after talking to the foreign news media about the slowness of the relief efforts being organised by the military government.

A Rangoon-based journalist reported that the authorities have stepped up control of cameras in the delta region. Equipment has been seized from the home of private individuals for fear that it could be used to film or photograph victims.

A military court sentenced Zaw Thet Htwe and eight other people for ‘high treason’ on 28 November 2003. The real reason for Zaw Thet Htwe’s arrest was the success of his football magazine and its independent line. The supreme court commuted his sentence to three years in prison on 12 May 2004 and he was finally released from Insein prison in January 2005.

Blogger Nay Phone Latt has meanwhile been transferred from cell No. 7 to cell No. 3 in Insein prison’s Building 1. During a recent interrogation session, the police threatened to bring other charges against him, in addition to the charge of possessing banned DVDs.

Relief Web

Burma cyclone impacting world food supply; forced evictions make post-cyclone hell worse

World Tribune

The military officers who have run the Burmese (Myanmar) economy for the past half century has little to show for their efforts. Endowed with vast raw materials and agricultural resources — the latter made Burma in colonial times the world’s No. 1 rice exporter — the economy has fallen to almost subsistence levels.

The effects of Cyclone Nargis in early May have not only added new misery for the country’s 50 million people but have negated rice exports needed by neighboring countries and contributing to the global food crisis. The storm hit hardest in Burma’s main rice-growing region in the isolated Irrawaddy Delta, where some 2 million people were driven from their homes and farmland.

Now comes word from human rights organizations that the military is driving displaced villagers from temporary camps set up in the continuing heavy monsoon rains, and is attempting to get them back on their salt water-logged fields to begin the recuperation of the paddy.

Human rights groups say that forced evictions — involving churches, monasteries, schools and other public buildings — are putting lives at risk and flouting international principles of humanitarian relief. Amnesty International reports 30 cases since May 19 of forcible removals of thousands of people who sought temporary shelter.

The force of the storm was so great that local stocks of food were destroyed. The few foreign refugee workers the regime has permitted to enter have described heart-rending stories of many displaced villagers trying to capture a few grains of rice out of inundated areas filled with decaying human corpses and animal carcasses.

The regime has permitted only minimal outside aid. And much of that, apparently, has been diverted to the military itself. Four American naval vessels that happened to be in the region on exercises when the storm struck waited for several weeks before gaining permission to enter the Delta area with small boats carrying water, emergency food and emergency items. The generals apparently fear exposure to foreign aid would strengthen opposition forces and their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of a founding father of the post-colonial nation and political prisoner for more than a decade.

Humanitarian organizations, including the UN World Food Program, were operating in Burma before the cyclone struck, providing food aid to half a million people in the country where one in three children are chronically malnourished. The fear now is that the damage to the area known as the country's "rice bowl" will make a bad situation a lot worse.

Burma’s plight is already impacting world food supplies. The World Food program said that it was not yet known whether Burma would be able to meet its commitments to supply Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. If Burmese exports disappear — as now seems possible — the domino effect on Asia neighbors would be fierce. The International Rice Research Institute warned that, with the year’s second harvest imminent, weather patterns in Asia would come under unprecedented scrutiny: the freak damage caused by the cyclone will now exacerbate that.

The price of rice had already trebled across Asia this year, hitting a record $25.07 per 100 pounds on April 24. Some local market prices have risen tenfold in the past year. Several governments — including those of China and India — responded by imposing export bans. Rice is currently trading around $20.96 per 100 pounds.

If the worst conditions prevail, Burma, with a rickety food economy and impoverished population, could become a net importer of rice.

Myanmar Cyclone Survivors Left Without Shelter, Aid Workers Say

By Paul Tighe

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- More than 75 percent of people needing shelter after Myanmar's cyclone are without tarpaulins for emergency protection six weeks after the storm devastated the southern Irrawaddy River Delta, aid workers said.

``There are still people who need a roof over their head,'' John Sparrow of the International Federation of the Red Cross said yesterday after returning from the delta, according to the United Nations IRIN news service. ``They are resilient, and they are doing the best they can for themselves, but it isn't enough.''

Only 22 percent of people in need have been given protective materials by international agencies, the IFRC said. The UN estimates that only 160,000 households have received some form of emergency shelter such as plastic sheeting.

The UN is trying to aid more than 2.4 million people affected by the May 2-3 storm. The military junta in the country formerly known as Burma is still complicating the relief effort by imposing restrictions on international aid workers, such as limiting their visits to the delta to two to three days at a time, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement yesterday.

Aid agencies have yet to establish how many homes were destroyed when Tropical Cyclone Nargis caused a tidal surge to sweep 35 kilometers (22 miles) inland through the delta, Myanmar's main rice-growing region.

Assessment Team

A team of 250 people from UN agencies is now visiting 30 of the worst-hit townships and plans to have an assessment completed by June 24, according to IRIN.

``We are struggling generally in terms of information flow,'' IRIN cited Graham Eastmond, the Bangkok-based coordinator of Emergency Shelter Cluster, which groups relief agencies, as saying yesterday. As many as 480,000 families may need some shelter materials, the ESC estimates.

Supplies of tarpaulins are hampered by a shortage caused by the relief effort needed for survivors of the May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan province that killed more than 69,000 people and affected 3.3 million people in the region.

The UN's appeal for Myanmar was 62 percent funded as of yesterday, OCHA said in a statement. More access to the delta region by international aid workers is needed to bring relief to the worst-hit areas, it said.

``The quality and availability of water remains a major health concern,'' it said in its latest report yesterday.

A shortage of funds may affect food, shelter and medicines reaching the region in coming weeks, the UN said last week. Survivors will probably need food aid for a year because Nargis destroyed fields, preventing planting, Paul Risley, a WFP spokesman, said in Bangkok last week.

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

Myanmar: Cyclone Nargis OCHA Situation Report No. 32


1. Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on 2 and 3 May 2008, making landfall in the Ayeyarwady Division and hitting the former capital, Yangon. 37 townships were significantly affected by the cyclone. Current estimates suggest that 2.4 million people were affected. 1.3 million people are estimated to have been reached so far by International NGOs, the Red Cross and the UN. Official figures put the number of dead or missing at more than 130,000.

2. A Tripartite Core Group (TCG), consisting of high-level representatives of the Government of Myanmar, ASEAN and the UN, was established at a donor conference in Yangon on 25 May to oversee the coordination of relief assistance. The group’s fifth meeting took place in Yangon on 14 June. The ASEAN Secretary-General, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, visited Yangon on 14 June. The Secretary-General met with TCG partners, PONJA management teams (see below) and Government representatives.

3. A joint relief and early recovery assessment (Post-Nargis Joint Assessment/PONJA) is underway. The assessment involves humanitarian needs (Village Tract Assessment/VTA) and damage components (Damage and Loss Assessment/DaLA). Field surveys involving some 250 assessment personnel are taking place in 30 of the worst-affected townships between 10 and 19 June. As of 16 June 32 VTA teams have covered 84 out of 128 assessment ‘quadrants’ in Bogale, Labutta, Pathein, Pyapon, Wakema and Yangon.

4. New Government guidelines for international organizations providing assistance in cyclone-affected areas were introduced on 10 June. UN agencies and NGOs report difficulties with requests for visas and travel authorizations carried out in accordance with the new guidelines, with many line ministries not provided with instructions to expedite requests. More than 200 visas have been issued to UN staff as of 15 June. Most of the visas issued have been single entry visas for two weeks. Extensions are currently being approved in approximately 7-10 days. Close to 150 international operational UN staff have been to the affected areas as of 15 June, and at least five international UN staff have now been given permission to be based for up to 3 months in the field.


5. The Xinhua news service reports that the Myanmar Engineers' Society (MES) and the Geological Science Society (GSS) are planning to build cyclone shelters in 500 vulnerable villages. The total cost of the project is estimated to be at least US$15 million. Designs are reportedly being developed by MES and sample shelters will initially be constructed in Ayeyarwady division.

6. IFRC reports that the Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS), working with the IFRC and the ICRC, has reached more than 250,000 beneficiaries with water, food and other relief items as of 9 June. More than 189,950 of these beneficiaries are located in the Ayeyarwady delta. Approximately 10,000 people per day are being reached.


7. The following information is provided by the clusters, which meet regularly to coordinate the humanitarian response of national and international NGOs, the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and UN agencies. For more detailed up-to-date information relating to cluster activities please visit the Humanitarian Information Centre (HIC) website: http://myanmar.humanitarianinfo.org.

Relief Web

Myanmar rice farmers get tillers to replace buffalo, but don't know how to use them

KYUNG GWIN, Myanmar (IHT): Farmer Zaw Naing was puzzled as he stared at the brand new, unassembled tilling machine — equipment not seen in most of Myanmar's rice belt before the deadly cyclone.

Thousands of the tillers, donated by international and private aid donors, have been brought in to replace the water buffalo that once plowed the rice paddies but were killed by Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3.

The plan is for farmers in the devastated Irrawaddy delta to rebuild their livelihoods and begin producing the rice that feeds this impoverished country.

But time is running out

The rice planting season should have started by early June, when farmers here typically plow their fields with water buffalo and prepare to plant new seeds for the October harvest. The delta produces most of Myanmar's rice, and without immediate help, food security will be seriously threatened, international experts have warned.

The Agriculture Ministry has said 13,600 power tillers are needed to replace more than 280,000 cattle that died in the storm.

Some farmers say they have been lucky enough to receive the new machines but need to reassemble them since the tillers were shipped in several pieces.

"We don't know how to put it together. We have to wait for a mechanic to come," Zaw Naing said on a recent afternoon in the delta village of Kyaung Gwin as he unwrapped the plastic cover of the Chinese-made machine's red engine. He watched as a neighbor tugged at the machine's parts and pulled its gear shifts.

Most farmers in the delta have not managed to get a mechanical tiller. But once they do, they face further challenges: farmers can't afford the diesel fuel to power the machines and don't know how to operate them.

"I don't know how to use this machine. We only used buffalo in the past," said Zaw Naing, who lost his home in the cyclone as well as the 10 water buffalo that plowed his fields.

He has been told by local authorities to share the tiller with five other farmers in his village, which is south of the town of Labutta in one of the hardest hit areas. The cyclone killed some 78,000 people and left 56,000 more missing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in an assessment last week the delta normally produces about 60 percent of Myanmar's rice and the outlook for this year's crop is "very uncertain" after the storm flooded paddy fields with sea water, damaged irrigation systems and destroyed seed supplies.

"Little to no actual progress has been made to restore or rehabilitate damaged lands and infrastructure," the report said. "Farmers are yet to be supplied with sufficient food, viable seed, tools, livestock or replacement mechanical tillers and fuel."

Myanmar's Agriculture Ministry says it is sending experts to train farmers and will send 140,000 baskets of salt-resistant rice seed — the equivalent of 2,900 tons — to the delta, a fraction of what is needed.

Once the world's top producer, Myanmar has seen rice exports drop from nearly 4 million tons to about 40,000 tons last year, after four decades of military rule and disastrous economic policies. Its exports are so small these days that few expect the cyclone will have any impact on world rice prices; the people of Myanmar consume most of the rice the country produces.

U.N. Undersecretary-General Noeleen Heyzer issued an urgent plea Friday for donations of 1 million gallons (3.8 million liters) of diesel fuel to help farmers run the tillers.

Myanmar's agriculture minister, Maj. Gen. Htay Oo, told Heyzer the fuel is needed to run some 5,000 tillers donated by Thailand, China and other countries. Private donors and aid agencies have contributed additional machines.

"The window of opportunity is very short," said Heyzer, the senior U.N. official in Asia. After the planting season ends in July, it will be too late, she said, warning of "disastrous consequences for food security in Myanmar."

The sense of urgency — and frustration — was shared by rice farmer Tin Yein, whose wife, five farm hands and eight buffalo were killed in the cyclone. He spent a whole day recently lined up with 200 other farmers in Labutta, where dozens of donated tillers were being stored in a government warehouse waiting to be distributed.

"I didn't get one today, but maybe I will get it tomorrow," said Tin Yein, sitting at a tea shop in town after a day of dealing with red tape. Farmers applying for the mechanical tillers must be accompanied by their village headmen, said Tin Yein, and his local official arrived too late to process the request that day.

"Normally, planting season starts May 15. I'm already a month late," said the farmer, who has 70 acres (28 hectares) of land. Each harvest produced about 30,000 baskets of rice, enough to feed his family and bring in some US$9,000 a year in income.

Tin Yein wonders how he'll afford to use the mechanical tiller. He says he'll need to hire eight men and a boat to transport the machine to his village, about an hour away and accessible only by narrow waterways.

Each machine uses 2 gallons (8 liters) of diesel per acre and government rations restrict each person to 5 gallons (19 liters) of fuel every few days. Fuel is available on the black market but for twice the official price of US$2.70 per gallon.

"I have no money for diesel because every day I struggle just to buy food," Tin Yein said. "I'm not hopeful of planting before the rainy season is over."