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Restless Souls of the Irrawaddy Delta

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Restless Souls of the Irrawaddy Delta

By SAW YAN NAING Friday, January 2, 2009

A chilling sound reverberates these nights through many of the villages of the cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta—the metallic clang of an iron bar beaten by soldiers to drive away the spirits of the drowned that many believe roam through the region.

Soldiers stationed in Laputta Township said they had been assigned to strike iron bars after dark to reassure villagers who claim they are seeing the ghosts of people who died in Cyclone Nargis.

A typical scene of destruction in the Irrawaddy delta (Photo: AFP)

Burmese Buddhists traditionally hold two religious ceremonies—Yat Lae Hsun and Thet Pyauk Hsun—to ensure the release of the souls of deceased family members.Mass ceremonies were held for the thousands who died in Cyclone Nargis—yet villagers in many part of the devastated delta claim seeing the restless ghosts of cyclone victims.

“Villagers told me they heard ghosts shouting almost every night around midnight,” said a visitor to Laputta Township.

She said that during her stay in one village people claimed they were being visited by the spirits of dead relatives and friends asking for help.

A report on the Web site of The Seattle Times, quoted a 30-year-old Laputta woman who described how she had seen her dead husband.

He appeared to her one evening as a blurry image on the path he had normally taken home from work, she said. The image waved to her.

“The hair on my arms stood up at once,” she was quoted as saying. “That’s my husband.”

The Web site said the woman wiped away her tears as she said: “I could only go to a monk to save his soul so his next life will be a good one.”

Even soldiers assigned to reassure nervous villagers are reporting strange encounters.

One, attached to the 66th Light Infantry Division, said he heard a woman’s voice crying: “Help me, please, help me… I’m here, Ko Pe Than!”

Another said he heard the voice of a girl who died in the storm cry out: “Mother, I’m here! Please, help me!”

Soldiers report seeing mysterious lights flashing and hearing voices around the isolated seaside village of Konegyi.

The “ghost sightings” are attributed by some NGO workers and medical personnel working in the delta to the mental trauma suffered by cyclone survivors, who lacked proper post-disaster counseling.

One inhabitant of Mondinelay village, in Bogalay Township, one of the hardest-hit areas, said: “In the evening, if there is a heavy wind or rain, some people start crying, while others begin laughing. They are like mad people.”

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group |


–>NB. This post is specially for those who cannot visit the Irrawaddy website.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

January 2, 2009 at 4:36 pm

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