Myanmar starts evictions from cyclone camps
30 May 2008
“It is better that they move to their homes where they are more stable,” a government official said at one camp where people have been told to clear out by 4 pm (0930 GMT). “Here, they are relying on donations and it is not stable.”
Locals and aid workers said 39 camps in the immediate vicinity of Kyauktan, 30 km (19 miles) south of Yangon, were being cleared out as part of a general eviction plan.
“We knew we had to go at some point but we had hoped for more support,” 21-year-old trishaw driver Kyaw Moe Thu said as he trudged out of the camp with his five brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom is just 2- years old.
They had been given 20 bamboo poles and some tarpaulins to help rebuild their lives in the Irrawaddy delta, where 134,000 people were left dead or missing by Cyclone Nargis on May 2.
“Right now, we are disappointed,” he said.
Four weeks after the disaster, the United Nations says fewer than one in two of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have received any form of help from either the government, or international or local aid groups.
Rumors are flying around the international aid community in Yangon that the evictions are occurring in state-run refugee centers across the delta.
The U.N., which has local and foreign aid workers in the delta, said it did not know if that was the case.
“We certainly don’t endorse premature return to where there are no services, and any forced or coerced movement is completely unacceptable,” U.N. spokeswoman Amanda Pitt said in Bangkok.
The evictions come a day after official media in the army-run formerlashed out at offers of foreign aid, criticizing donors’ demands for access to the Irrawaddy delta and saying cyclone victims could “stand by themselves.”
“The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries,” the Kyemon newspaper said in a Burmese-language editorial.
As with all media, it is tightly controlled by the army and is believed to reflect the thinking of the top generals, who until now have shown signs of growing, albeit grudging, acceptance of outside cyclone assistance.
The editorial also accused the international community of being stingy, noting that the United Nations’ “flash appeal” was still a long way short of its $201 million target nearly four weeks after the disaster, which left 134,000 dead or missing.
The level of aid stands in stark contrast to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, when governments around the world promised $2 billion within the first week.
The tone of the editorial is at odds with recent praise of the U.N. relief effort, but follows criticism of the junta’s extension this week of the five-year house arrest of opposition leader .
said he was “deeply troubled” by the extension and called for the more than 1,000 political prisoners to be freed.
The State Department said the Nobel laureate’s detention would not affect U.S. cyclone aid, but a top U.S. commander said warships laden with aid would leave waters near the delta if they did not get a green light soon.
(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Sanjeev Miglani)