The Burmese junta has imposed many obstacles on those wanting to aid cyclone victims, whilst the junta has been more concerned with rigging the military constitution referendum. In the cyclone disaster hit areas the referendum will be held on May 24th, with cyclone victims seeking shelter already having to be moved to make way for the ballot box stations. Head of State General Than Shwe visited the suburbs of Rangoon (not even the devastated Irrawaddy delta region) for the first time after 2 weeks since the cyclone. He already announced the "end to the relief phase" last week and the beginning of a "reconstruction phase". This meant awarding construction projects to the junta cronies for repairs to the tourist sites in Rangoon. After 18 days since the cyclone Nargis hit on 2nd May, aid has only reached a quarter of those in need according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
The UK, France and US have ships in the area capable of supplying massive relief aid but they have been waiting days for diplomatic negotiations with the junta to permit them to save the lives of thousands of Burmese.
ASEAN ministers met on Monday to agree a limited UN coordinated aid deal with Burma. But the deal doesn't allow in foreign experts from the west who have experience in dealing with crises on this scale, and doesn't allow in foreign military with the capacity and logistical experience to deliver aid in the hard to reach delta region.
May 17th: Global Day of Action for Burma's Cyclone Victims Facebook Event Page
Donating to Burma Cyclone Victims
Burma Campaign UK has a web page on the crisis, with donation links to
major charities helping victims of the cyclone eg.
Christian Aid, Oxfam, The Red Cross, Islamic Relief and CAFOD.
DISASTERS EMERGENCY COMMITTEE MYANMAR (BURMA) CYCLONE APPEAL - Donate
* Donate online : Myanmar (Burma).
* Send a Cheque made payable to 'DEC Myanmar Cyclone' to:
DEC Myanmar (Burma) Cyclone Appeal, PO BOX 232, Melksham, SN12 6WF
* Go to any High Street Bank or Post Office quoting Freepay number: 1643
* Call the automated donation line 0870 60 60 900 (24 hours a day)
Protests in London next week
21st May Wednesday
Meet at Burma Embassy for normal daily Burmese protest
Myanmar/Burma Embassy 19A, Charles St, London W1J 5DX.
Tube: Green Park | Map: http://preview.tinyurl.com/2vnnbh
Protests against French Total Oil's 500 million dollar funding of the brutal Burma junta:
Total London HQ, 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW
Tube: Oxford Circus | Map: http://preview.tinyurl.com/2tylug
Southfields Total Station
5.00pm - 7.00pm (Wednesday)
Protest at Southfields Total Station, 262 Wimbledon Park Road, London SW19 6NL
Tube: Southfields (District Line). Map: http://preview.tinyurl.com/2eoou7
Protests are held weekly but locations may change. For information and reports on protests in London and around the country please see
Recent News from Burma Campaign UK
Total Oil Faces Burma Protests At AGM
Burma Campaigners have purchased shares in Total Oil in order to attend the company’s Annual General Meeting in Paris on Friday. Total Oil is one of the largest corporate funders of the military dictatorship in Burma, which is currently denying aid to millions of its citizens following a devastating cyclone which struck the country on May 3rd.
“Total Oil has made much of its $2.2 million donation to cyclone victims, but this is a fraction of the $500 million it gives to the regime each year,” said Johnny Chatterton, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Total Oil has helped keep the Burma regime in power, and that regime is now killing thousands of its people by denying aid to them.”
Total Oil is the lead partner in the Yadana gas field in Burma, which has earned billions of dollars for Burma’s brutal dictators, who spend half the government’s annual income on the military. The generals used the first downpayment from the gas field to purchase ten MIG jets from Russia, despite 90 percent of the population living in poverty.
“The regime deny aid to their people, shoot monks on the streets, and their soldiers rape women and children, yet still Christophe de Margerie thinks it is acceptable to give them hundreds of millions of dollars every year,” said Johnny Chatterton. “Total Oil is living in a moral stone age, investors should insist Christophe de Margerie drags the company into the modern age.”
Christophe de Margerie is Chief Executive of Total Oil.
Recent Burma News (see full news stories and recent news on "Burma News" http://myamarnews.blogspot.com/ )
Reconstruction Just Propaganda, Say Rangoon Residents
Despite more than 1,000 tons of international aid dispatched to Burma for cyclone victims, many residents in Rangoon say they have had to pay inflated prices for reconstruction materials while others have received no aid and are still living outdoors.
Supplies are sold at the Township Peace and Development Council office and people who want to buy materials need to provide a letter of recommendation from a member of the Ward Peace and Development Council, he said. People also have to queue up for a long time to get the chance to buy materials, Tin Yu added.
Meanwhile, Kyi Win said that local philanthropists—including celebrities and well-established figures in Rangoon—were being driven away from cyclone-ravaged areas by members of the pro-junta group, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) while trying to make donations to the cyclone victims.
“Members of the USDA are telling the volunteers to give the supplies to them and they (the USDA members) will deliver those supplies to the victims on their behalf,” he said.
Tin Yu added that a group of private donors who recently visited wards 18 and 20 in Hlaing Tharyar Township were driven out by local authorities—members of the Ward Peace and Development Council.
Instead of helping the victims, the local authorities are confiscating supplies and selling them at highly inflated prices to the victims, said Tin Yu.
Aye Kyu, a resident in Laputta, one of the most affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta, said that USDA members in Laputta were forcing local people who have been aiding the cyclone survivors to wear caps bearing the emblem of the USDA while delivering supplies to victims.
About 70 percent of cyclone survivors are still waiting for aid, according to the United Nations World Food Program. Spokesman Marcus Prior said that just 250,000 people had received a two-week ration of rice, while 750,000 survivors were in desperate need of food, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
Meanwhile, the Burmese prime minister, Gen Thein Sein, recently told his Thai counterpart, Samak Sundaravej, that the Burmese government had completed the first phase—emergency relief, and was now moving on to the second phase—rebuilding.
Not Much Aid Reaching Laputta Victims
Despite all the aid pledged to Burma’s cyclone victims, many supplies dispatched to Laputta are still not being delivered to those in need, according to residents in areas where refugees are sheltering.
A resident of Laputta said, "The military government’s trucks have arrived with international aid in Laputta, but most of it is being kept at the football pitch near Su Taung Pyate monastery. The refugees are receiving nothing from this convoy.”
"We passed by a convoy from the Max Myanmar company, which was carrying assistance to Laputta Township,” said a private donor from Rangoon, who volunteered to distribute emergency aid in Laputta on May 14. “I asked the drivers what they wee carrying and they told me sacks of rice, generators and batteries donated from Japan. When I arrived in Laputta and went to the monasteries, they said they hadn't received any batteries or generators."
Nonetheless, some volunteers, monks and refugees in Laputta—one of the areas most devastated by the cyclone—said they had received some international assistance from the United Nations Development Project (UNDP), the World Food Programme (WFP) and other international non-governmental organizations, in the form of food, shelter, water purification equipment and free medical services.
The abbot of Lay Htut Kyaung monastery, U Nivarana, who is co-ordinating the most crowded refugee facility in Laputta, said, "Since the day after the cyclone, the first of some 2,000 people began arriving to take refuge at the monastery. In the first days after the disaster, the Township Peace and Development Council delivered 22 or 23 sacks of rice and 7 sacks of potatoes. Then, I believe, the UNDP started assisting the refugees and the local administrative officers stopped distributing aid some three or four days ago. Another NGO came and distributed some plastic sheeting. That's all. We received nothing else."
Other monasteries in Laputta are providing temporary shelter for cyclone victims, such as at Tha Yet Taw monastery and Sasanaw Daya monastery, where monks are coordinating an aid effort with donations and assistance from UNDP and WFP, volunteers and camp managers said.
Meanwhile, in Rangoon, residents report that some department stores and shops are openly selling high-energy biscuits, canned fish and meat, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets labelled as US or Japanese donations.
Leading Monks Send Money, Aid to Refugees
Burmese monks have again stepped into the front lines in a moment of national crisis, this time helping to provide money, food, shelter and medical supplies to survivors of Cyclone Nargis.
According to Mandalay residents, many senior monks captured people’s imaginations—and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations—while taking the lead in organizing effective relief operations in the delta.
Senior monks in Mandalay and elsewhere, speaking in dhamma [the Buddha’s teachings] talks to laypeople, are also urging people to show direct action through compassion by volunteering time or money to help the needy, in accord with Buddhist teachings.
Mizzima Gon Yi Sayadaw [sayadaw is an abbot’s title] of Mandalay spoke about the refugees’ need of food and shelter in his dhamma talks on May 11 and 12.
“I offered money to Sayadaw, and he got many donations to fund the purchase of supplies. I’m sure this aid is reaching affected people,” said one Mandalay resident.
U Kawthala, also known as Dhamma Sedi Sayadaw, of Mandalay contributed 10 million kyat (US $8,695) from his monastery fund, and his lay followers then donated 120 million kyat (US $104,347) following his dhamma talks in Zay Cho market in Mandalay early last week.
Dr. Ashin Nyanissara, also known as Sitagu Sayadaw, of nearby Sagaing started collecting relief material after the cyclone hit lower Burma, and organized a team of relief workers to go to the storm-stricken area.
He received donations from Burma and abroad and personally handed donations to some survivors.
According to residents in Bogalay Township, Ashin Nyanissara quickly established the Sitagu Asia Royal Emergency Clinic for cyclone victims at a home for the elderly in Bogalay. So far, he has also assisted more than 900 refugees from Bogalay at the Sitagu Association's monastery in Bogalay. He also arranged for generators and water filtration systems to be set up in areas around Bogalay.
“Sayadaw Nyanissara brought plastic shelter, food, water and supplies,” said Myo Zaw of Bogalay Township.
The Ministry of Information has ordered magazines and journals not to publish stories about monks providing aid to the refugees and needy.
Monks played a leading role in the civil uprising in September 2007 against the military government. Many monks were beaten or shot and hundreds were detained in prisons. Many monks went into hiding, fearing arrest and imprisonment.
Save the Children Warns of Starvation in Burma
Thousands of children in Burma could die of starvation within two or three weeks, a British charity said on Sunday.
Save the Children UK said its research showed that an estimated 30,000 children under five years of age in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta were already acutely malnourished even before Cyclone Nargis tore through the region—and that several thousand among them are now at risk of death.
"With hundreds of thousands of people still not receiving aid, many of these children will not survive much longer," the charity said in a statement. "Children may already be dying as a result of a lack of food."
Humanitarian aid agency Action Against Hunger described the situation in the Bogalay region of the delta where it was working as "extremely alarming," saying the priority of every survivor they surveyed there was to find enough food to eat.
"All day long, people are looking for food and for a way of cooking the food they find," the group said in a statement. "For over 15 days, the survivors have mainly been feeding themselves with wild fruits, vegetables and mouldy rice, which they are trying to dry."
The group said the price of rice had quadrupled since the cyclone struck the country and that some people were already starving.
More than two weeks after the cyclone devastated Burma, aid agencies have hit out at government restrictions preventing them from reaching the worse-hit areas.
Diarrhoea, Dysentery Widespread among Refugees
A volunteer Burmese doctor, after seeing a number of patients in Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta following Cyclone Nargis, shook his head in disbelief.
“Almost 80 percent of my patients had diarrhoea and dysentery!” he said. He asked not to be identified in fear of retribution from the military regime.
“In the first week [after the cyclone], most of the patients caught a cold,” he said, while working at a monastery near Daydanaw village, where he treated about 60 patients in two and one-half hours.
I feel regret for not having a chance to give enough time to my patients here. Many of them need a more thorough check up,” he said. “There are just too few doctors to treat too many patients.”
Other volunteer doctors and medical personnel are finding the same symptoms in the worst hit areas of Kungyangone, Dedaye, Pyapon, Bogalay and Laputta.
Health conditions among the storm victims are in a precarious state two weeks after the storm, according to medical staff, because of the junta’s refusal to allow aid and medical staff to reach the victims in a timely fashion.
“The junta is to blame in this regard,” said another doctor working with an NGO. “They didn’t take the health issue seriously.”
He said the junta’s lack of response has caused increasing numbers of illnesses and a risk of epidemics.
The lack of sufficient food, even in areas where relief camps have been established, is also placing refugees at greater risk, he said, because many people suffer from malnutrition.
The lack of nutritious food and proper shelter combine to lower patients’ resistance, making them more susceptible to serious illnesses.
Adding to the problem of a lack of relief supplies and medicine is a widespread lack of information about disease-related issues, such as waste disposal, sanitation and hygiene. Much of the delta population is simply uninformed about such issues, say doctors.
People in many areas are forced to use water from wells, rivers and lakes where bodies have been decomposing. The lack of sanitation facilities has filled the water supply and the ground water with faecal matter and other disease-bearing materials.
“The way they eat and the way they excrete are no longer healthy, since so many people have no access to proper sanitation,” said one doctor.
The number of existing clinics in the area prior to the disaster was already inadequate, he said, because the regime has never employed enough health workers. Volunteer doctors from Rangoon and doctors attached to NGOs are playing an essential role in getting some medical supplies and services to the major relief camps and most remote areas.
Still, many areas are out of the reach of health workers, because of lack of transportation and organization.
“The junta should take the lead in getting medical services to the victims,” said one NGO expert.
Meanwhile, a relatively small number of NGO-attached medical staff and volunteer medical personnel are trying to cope with an overwhelming number of patients.
Burma cyclone: Aid reaches the furthest corner of the cyclone zone
A team from aid agency Save the Children has reached the western most tip of Burma's Irrawaddy delta, bringing aid to some of the people hardest hit by cyclone Nargis. The team, formed of Burmese Save the Children humanitarian workers, brought vital relief supplies by boat including food, bottled water, plastic sheeting for shelter and mosquito nets.
Junta photographs misery of cyclone victims
Photographs that reveal the misery of the cyclone victims are being taken by the Burmese military junta authorities in Waingmaw (Wai Maw) Township in Kachin State in northern Burma, a source said.
On the orders of the Waingmaw Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC), residents of a village came to the office of the Village Peace and Development Council (VPDC) for photographs that show their miserable condition, said a resident of Waingmaw Township.
The authorities in the village have arranged to take photographs in front of the national flag which is in half mast on the pole. The residents have to stand in front of the flag to express their grief following the cyclone, a resident added.
Every village has to send three photographs to the TPDC office. Though the authorities have taken photographs, they have not yet made any donation to the victims of Nargis.
Weekly journals ordered not to cover "destruction", but cover "reconstruction"
Rangoon - Private weekly journals in Burma have been ordered by the press scrutiny board not to run any story that depicts the destruction but to cover the reconstruction exercise undertaken by the authorities in the aftermath of the cyclone that pummelled Rangoon and Irrawaddy delta areas, according to local journalists.
"We were told by the scrutiny board not to cover the news of destruction. But, were told to cover the reconstruction they are doing," an editor of a weekly told Mizzima on condition of anonymity for fear of junta's reprisal for telling the outside media.
The authorities are reportedly angry with the head of the censor board, Major Tint Swe, for having passed some cyclone stories that described the damage to buildings and loss of property with pictures.
The head of military junta Senior General Than Shwe flared up when he found a front page story from the Bi-weekly Eleven news journal that said, "The plight of storm victims should not be exploited."
"As Myanmar [Burmese] readers are clever enough to read between the lines, they immediately realized that the story did criticize the junta that has been showing how kind they are in helping the victims by using international aids as theirs," said a journalist.
An editor said that the censor board cannot control Weekly Eleven or Bi-weekly news journals since there are some generals behind the scenes. Which is why, Major Tint Swe tried to tell the boss of Eleven Media group this is a direct order from the ministry of communication for all weekly journals.
"We were also warned that we must not describe how people are starving for lack of food," one senior journalist, who has five years experience in reporting, told Mizzima.
The Burma Media Association, a Burmese press freedom watchdog, condemned the junta for the restriction imposed saying it not only violates press freedom but also violates and suppresses the peoples' rights.
"The Burmese government is trying to conceal the sufferings of the people and making false claims that they are conducting rescue and relief missions," Son Moe Wai, Secretary of the BMA said.
A journalist, who returned from the worst hit areas, said she found nothing being reconstructed there by the junta.
"So, what should we cover under the title -- 'reconstruction phase'?" she asked, "They [soldiers] haven't even finished clearing the towns yet let alone undertake the reconstruction phase."
"Journalists are meant to tell the truth so that people will know of the situation in Burma. Suppressing the press at this time is outrageous and shameful," Son Moe Wai said.
Lack of infrastructure and restrictions hamper aid effort
More than two weeks after the killer Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma's Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon division, aid agencies said relief materials are trickling in but cannot reach the worst hit areas.
"There are still many people who have not received basic shelter and clean water they need," Craig Strathern the spokesman of the International Committee of the Red Cross-Burma told Mizzima.
While aid continues to arrive in Burma, lack of proper infrastructure, communication network, and the junta's restrictions have delayed the aid distribution process.
In several areas, bridges have collapsed rendering transportation impossible. It adds to slowing down operations by aid agencies in the Irrawaddy delta, which is the worst hit.
The ICRC said it has sent in three aircrafts with aid including emergency shelter tarpaulin, roofs, jerry can for storing and carrying water, blankets, mosquito nets and medicines, while the International Federation of the Red Cross has sent in about 17 flights so far.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601080&sid=a9vfjOg.796o&refer=asiaAid agencies look forward to ASEAN mechanism
Myanmar Cyclone Aid Plan Is Based on 2004 Tsunami, Asean Says
May 20 (Bloomberg) -- Myanmar's regional allies will funnel aid into the southern Irrawaddy River Delta, the region hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis, using a plan based on relief operations in Indonesia's Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, will send aid workers to distribute international supplies, the group said in a statement after a meeting in Singapore yesterday.
``The Myanmar government has agreed to accept the immediate dispatch of medical teams from all the Asean countries,'' the group said yesterday. Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan will head the taskforce that will work with the United Nations and the military rulers of the country formerly known as Burma.
Myanmar's junta declared three days of mourning from today for the more than 130,000 people dead or missing after the cyclone struck 18 days ago, the British Broadcasting Corp. said, citing state television. The disaster was the worst to hit Southeast Asia since the 2004 tsunami killed 220,000 people in countries in the Indian Ocean.
UN Chief to Visit Burma
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will fly to Burma this week and visit the areas hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis, the United Nations said on Sunday.
UN spokeswoman Michèle Montas said Burma’s military government has given permission for the UN chief to travel to the Irrawaddy Delta, a region along the coast directly in the cyclone's path, where UN officials fear tens of thousands of cyclone survivors are not getting adequate aid.
John Holmes, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, flew by helicopter into an area where hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims suffer from hunger, disease and lack of shelter.
Earlier, junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe had refused to take telephone calls from Ban and had not responded to two letters from him. Holmes, who arrived in Rangoon on Sunday, was to deliver a third letter about how the UN can assist the government's immediate and long-term relief effort.
Gambari: Missing in Action
At a time when the people of Burma are suffering and the country is facing a major crisis, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, the UN special envoy for Burma, is in Africa promoting his latest book. After taking center spotlight on Burma for so long, it appears he has now been sidelined by the UN.
Myanmar cyclone: The internet will shame Burma's junta, says Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown says that "people power" is helping to reveal the "true horrors" of the Burmese junta and to shame it into admitting more foreign aid.
The Prime Minister said that in the internet age a reclusive country like Burma, also known as Myanmar, can no longer remain hidden away from the world.
"Direct people power is going to be a force not just for individual countries but for foreign policy as well," Mr Brown told a conference organised by Google in Watford.
He predicted that "whether it is famine, cyclone or whatever, pressure from the people is going to force government interaction."
Mr Brown suggested that the genocide in Rwanda might not have been met with “such silence" if it had occurred in the internet age.
Anger at crises reported online could sometimes create a “coup de blogs" he said, forcing governments to take action.
Than Shwe Makes First Visit to Relief Camp
The head of Burma’ ruling junta, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, on Sunday made his first visit to a relief camp since Cyclone Nargis, patting babies’ heads and shaking the hands of survivors, amid growing international criticism over his government's handling of the crisis.
State television featured footage of Than Shwe inspecting supplies and comforting victims in relatively clean and neat rows of blue tents. Some survivors clasped their hands and bowed as he and a column of military leaders walked past.
According to the report, Than Shwe travelled from the capital, Naypyidaw, in central Burma, to relief camps in the Hlaing Thar Yar and Dagon suburbs of Rangoon. He has still not visited the devastated Irrawaddy delta region.
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30 Days (in May 2008) for a million voices: Burma Can't Wait
Millions Rallied to Free Nelson Mandela and South Africa. Now it's Burma's Turn
Hollywood Stars Team up with the Human Rights Action Center to Launch Campaign on Behalf of the People of Burma
Will Ferrell, Anjelica Huston, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen Page, Judd Apatow, Mana, Sylvester Stallone, Eric Szmanda, Sarah Silverman Part of 30-Day Call-to-Action to Free Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma.