Drought-hit villages in Pegu Division will soon receive some unexpected help, thanks to an unnamed media company’s attempt to bribe a senior government official during Burma’s Thingyan water festival.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Information on Friday, the 5 million kyat (US$4,250) in cash handed over to an assistant of the official will be used to maintain and repair reservoir ponds in five villages in Pegu’s Thanatpin Township.
The statement said that each pond is expected to cost 1 million kyat to repair and will be available for use within a week.
On Wednesday, the President’s Office revealed that the unnamed official’s assistant received the bribe while taking part in last week’s Thingyan festivities on a stage operated by the company in Naypyidaw.
Although the company was not identified by name, it was widely understood to be satellite pay TV provider Sky Net, which was the only media company hosting a stage in the capital last week.
It was further revealed on Thursday that Sky Net had offered free service to lawmakers in Rangoon and Naypyidaw, in possible violation of rules limiting the value of gifts to civil servants to $25,000 kyat ($21).
The Thingyan bribe money will make just a small contribution to the overall effort to address the effects of extreme heat and dry conditions hitting large parts of central, eastern and southern Burma, including the Irrawaddy River delta.
In addition to severe droughts, the unusually hot, dry weather has also increased the risk of forest fires. In Mandalay Division’s Kyaukpadaung Township, it took firefighters two days to bring a fire on Mount Popa — one of Burma’s most sacred sites — under control.
“The fire claimed an estimated area of 50 to 60 acres,” Win Naing Thaw, the director of the Forestry Department, told DVB, adding that strong winds made it difficult to contain the blaze, which started around 4 pm on Wednesday.
In a statement released on Friday, the Meteorological Department warned that the effects of the current El Niño weather system could bring more of the same next month.
The department added that there was a 50 percent chance that the El Niño would be followed by a La Niña effect, which would increase the threat of cyclone formation in the rainy season.