Burmese resident tells Oslo-based radio about relief problems
13 May 2008
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Text of report by Norway-based Burmese Democratic Voice of Burma website, on 12 May
Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma on 2 and 3 May, left 100,000 people dead and missing in Irrawaddy Division. Bogale which is located in that region also suffered many casualties.
We understand that there have been reports of cholera in Bogale and that the town is in urgent need of clean water and medicines.
Waterways around Bogale are also reported to be clogged with corpses and scarcity of relief aid and gasoline has also prevented relief teams from visiting villages distant from Bogale. Clean water and water purification devices donated by the international community have reached Bogale but they cannot be distributed because the order from higher authorities has not been received yet. Local authorities are also said to be keeping a close watch on private donors.
Democratic Voice of Burma Correspondent Ko Aye Naing interviews a person who is undertaking relief work in Bogale about the situation there.
[Begin recording] [DVB] Can you please tell me about the situation in Bogale?
[Unidentified male] There are many people taking refuge here. The monasteries are sheltering them. I have visited about four monasteries and saw over 3,000 of them. I understand they are being moved to Ma-ubin, where they have opened five shelters. Some people - I understand about 900 of them - were taken to Ma-ubin but the cyclone victims did not want to go there. So, they used force to take them away and some families got separated. For instance, husbands were moved and wives were left behind or children taken away without the husbands, and so forth.
[DVB] Who is moving them out?
[Unidentified male] They were taken away in military trucks. People were forced into the trucks and ordered not to remain at the monasteries. Many cyclone victims who did not go with the trucks were evicted from the monasteries and some of them are now living along the coast.
[DVB] Did you say that you saw about 3.000 people in trouble in Bogale?
[Unidentified male] Yes. Some people had open sores and there is no medicine. They do not have food, not even rice gruel. Three or four of them have to share a bowl of rice gruel.
[DVB] Aren't the authorities helping them?
[Unidentified male] No. But a few people bought rice at 800 kyats per pyi [about 4.5 pounds] and distributing about a pyi of rice to each cyclone victim. There were about 80 distressed people at a monastery and they went without food yesterday morning. In the evening a private donor gave a sack of rice to the monastery. The people there had to cope with what they have.
[DVB] Isn't the town feeding them?
[Unidentified male] Yes, there are private donors. But they also have difficulties as well. By difficulties, I mean, they encounter problems with (?officials). The authorities keep a close watch on donors at times and sometimes behave in an unpleasant way.
[DVB] Can you explain briefly about the situation in Bogale?
[Unidentified male] Some monasteries are given free access because they get along with the officials. Some monasteries, however, are difficult to get access. It is not easy even to get in touch with some monasteries because local officials have imposed restrictions.
[DVB] You mentioned about not being able to get medicines. What sort of health problems are there?
[Unidentified male] Rabies and open sores are the common problems. From my experience, I have seen those problems in about a hundred people. There is about to be more.
[DVB] Aren't the doctors and medics giving out medicines?
[Unidentified male] There is no medicine at all. Let me give you an example. We sent a corpse to the hospital and the next day we found the same corpse in the river. We sent a dead person to the mortuary and the next morning we found it in the river. Two pregnant women were sent to the hospital and they died. No treatment was given to them. In fact, there have been incidents about patients being turned away from the hospital.
[DVB] How about the people in the town?
[Unidentified male] The main problem is water. By that I mean, the water is really unclean. Of course, there are about two reservoirs in Bogale. But some reservoirs are filled with dirt and leaves and totally unfit for consumption but people are still using the water from them. From our estimate, there are about 120 villages. ((Words indistinct)) the exact number of people that we can ascertain is 97, but, they estimate about 300 people.
[DVB] Are people returning to their villages in Bogale Township?
[Unidentified male] About 50 to 80 people remain in some villages which used to have about 300 to 400 villagers. They continue to live there, coping with the water, food, and medicine shortage by themselves. No one has distributed anything to them.
[DVB] How are they surviving?
[Unidentified male] They share whatever is available and, of course, the children come first. As far as I know, they cannot go on living like this for too long.
[DVB] But the relief teams are there already, isn't it?
[Unidentified male] Well... as far as I know a truck from private sources arrived, but, it was not allowed to come into the town. The local people went to ask the truck in but the authorities insisted on taking one third of whatever was in the truck. When we send relief goods in, some exchanges of payments are made also.
[DVB] Who are the people asking for a one-third share?
[Unidentified male] I don't know, but there are soldiers around. Many shops in Bogale will not allow unfamiliar faces to enter the premises. If they allow you in, they unlock the door slightly so that only a person can go in and then they sell their stuff. What I have heard is that relief aid has arrived but I have not seen it being distributed.
[DVB] Why is that?
[Unidentified male] They said they were waiting for an approval from the higher authorities. That was what a military officer told me when I was helping (?carry the relief goods). I was told that some relief people are there too and some supplies are in the mosque on ((words indistinct)) road. They say there are devices (?to purify water) but I have not seen them being used until now.
[DVB] Aren't the overseas Burmese or the local people - the wealthy people and the big entrepreneurs - giving you rice?
[Unidentified male] Yes, they have. But, the amount given to us can be compared to feeding an elephant a fistful of sesame. The food, clothing, and shelter situation is very bad. We need water and food. People do not even have clothes to wear. There are open sores with pus on their bodies. Since we are private individuals, we have to make do with whatever is available. We use traditional as well as modern medicines but we do not have enough of them. The amount of food we have is very limited and we cannot meet the demand. The future is very bleak. [End recording]
That was Ko Aye Naing interviewing a resident of Bogale who has been helping cyclone victims about the situation in the region.
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma website, Oslo, in Burmese 1430 gmt 12 May 08