Pakokku monks collect aid for cyclone victims

May 21, 2008 (DVB), Monks from four teaching monasteries in Pakokku have raised 10,000,000 kyat and collected materials such as clothing, rice, beans and oil from local people.

The monks plan to donated the money and goods directly to cyclone victims on 22 May, a monk from one of the monasteries said.

"We collected the donations mainly from the residents of the town and surrounding villages," the monk said.

"We distribute leaflets in advance informing people that the donations would be given directly to the victims," he said.

"We told them that we would donate them personally, and we will keep that promise."

The monk said the priority areas for relief had already been identified.

"I am surprised by the generosity of Pakokku people – I estimate that the donations come to more than 10 million," the monk said.

"We had already systematically investigated the areas where aid is needed with the help of the people of Bogalay," he said.

"We told them to take us to the places that need help and said we would cooperate with them to provide it."

The monk stressed the importance of prioritising the aid effort over other concerns.

"We want everyone to help, leaving aside their own worries," he said.

"As for other people, they should also leave aside their other paths and intentions for a while and help these people in trouble."

Civilians who collected donations were reportedly forced to give local authorities 500,000 kyat through the Union Solidarity and Development Association, with a total of around 2 million kyat given to authorities.

The monks have not so far faced harassment from USDA members or been forced to give them the money they collected.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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