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Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cyclone survivors victimized by soldiers

A family of cyclone survivors sits together Monday in a hut they built for temporary shelter in Pyapon town, in the delta region of Myanmar.

A family of cyclone survivors sits together Monday in a hut they built for temporary shelter in Pyapon town, in the delta region of Myanmar.

May 29, 2008

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— It's not much, but the flimsy bamboo lean-to on the side of the road is all Aye Shwe has to keep his family dry. They lost their home to the cyclone and may soon be uprooted again - this time by soldiers ordering them to leave.

Three weeks after the storm, survivors say they are being victimized again, by a military regime that has forced some to return to flooded, collapsed homes and others to labor on reconstruction projects.

Even Myanmar volunteers making the difficult trip into the Irrawaddy delta to deliver food and supplies to survivors are being stopped and detained for hours, and the government has started impounding cars.

"Where my house used to be is still filled with water up to my waist," said Aye Shwe, pointing to fields of rice paddies in the distance, under water as far as the eye could see. "How can I build a new house there?"

The 52-year-old rice farmer's mother was killed in the cyclone that left more than 134,000 people dead or missing, and the water buffaloes that were a mainstay of his livelihood drowned in the fierce storm surges.

Still, until this week he had more than many: He managed to fashion a shelter from bamboo poles lashed together with palm fronds laid over one side as a crude roof. His wife and six children huddled together Monday on its raised bamboo floor, sheltering from the searing heat and the downpours that now come daily as monsoon season gets under way.

It's location on the roadside outside the hard-hit delta town of Pyapon, a four-hour drive from Yangon, had given his family access to the Myanmar volunteers ferrying donated food, water and other aid from the country's biggest city.

Then the soldiers came and ordered the family and the hundreds of others camped out on the roadside to leave.

Myanmar's reclusive government has opened up slightly to the world in the past week, allowing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to meet with some survivors living in tents in a refugee camp the military showed off as a model of its efficient handling of the relief effort.

But the U.N. says as many as 2.5 million people are homeless, facing hunger and potential outbreaks of disease, especially in the low-lying areas of the Irrawaddy delta close to the sea, and only a fraction of them have received any aid.

Hundreds lined the road outside Pyapon this week, squatting in the midday heat with only propped-up palm leaves or tree branches with pieces of cloth flung over them as shelter, hoping for handouts from the occasional passing car.

The government has ordered them not to beg, the refugees said, so only children rushed up to a stopped car with their hands out; the adults just waited, looking beseechingly. Military trucks passed by daily shouting orders over bull horns to leave the road and return home, these people said, though they have nowhere else to go.

The military junta has declared the emergency relief phase of the disaster over and announced reconstruction has begun, ordering able-bodied cyclone survivors to work details, according to aid workers and delta residents.

In the nearby town of Bogalay, where 120 refugees were crammed into the Sankyaung monastery, filled with the sound of rattling coughs and wailing children, the abbot said some survivors had been ordered to construction sites by soldiers.

Comments

maxcrabb 5 years, 10 months ago

...And meanwhile, in sports news, the Celtics held on to beat the pistons late in the 4th quarter Wednesday....

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le 5 years, 10 months ago

....I damn sure wouldn`t be sitting by the roadside doing nothing!

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le 5 years, 10 months ago

If something similar happened to me and I had kids to feed and I had a gun...my kids would have a full belly or i would die trying ....

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le 5 years, 10 months ago

And now..those of you that think survivalist skills and guns are uneccessary...i do believe this is exactly the kind of situation where these would come in handy! Or would you be one of the many just sitting on the roadside under a leaf waiting for a miracle to bite you on the @ss?

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