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May 12, 2008 (DVB)-High-profile comedian Zarganar and other celebrities have been reaching out to people affected by the recent cyclone with donations of food, medicines and other basic supplies.
Zarganar spoke to DVB yesterday about the film industry’s efforts to assist victims of Cyclone Nargis in Rangoon.
DVB: Could you explain how artists are helping the storm victims?
"First we got together all our friends from the film world. We wanted help to reach out to the people [but] we had difficulties getting rice, medicines, salt, . As we all wanted to get these things to the people, we wanted to do whatever we could. So Lu Min, Lwin Moe, Nay Toe, Eindra Kyaw Zin and May Than Nu all participated. Gradually we are getting there. Wai Lut Kyaw has been distributing it with his own car. He went to Koonchangone, Dala, Twante, Bogalay, Laputa, As we get to know each other gradually, people are becoming united. People who can afford it give rice, medicines and so on , a medical company came to give dermatological medicines. Film people are gathered on 35th Street [in Rangoon], the donation centre. Meanwhile, day labourers in the film community are finding it hard to survive. They only get 2000 to 3000 a day, in Burmese currency. These people have no rice to eat. They have no job. It’s stopped. They don’t even have the money for transport fares. These people are in trouble and we gave them rice, medicines, oil, rice and clothing this morning."
DVB: Where are you donating now?
"For the time being, we are dividing it between three places. One group went to Koochankone. Wai Lut Kyaw took a group to Myaungmya. I am taking responsibility for central Rangoon 35th Street and surrounding areas such as South Dagon, and East Dagon, for the people in these areas."
DVB: What did you donate in the west bank of Irrawaddy?
"There are more [refugees] there. So we took about 1000 bags of rice. And beans, dried fish and rain cloths, ‘waterproof’ or talapat materials."
DVB: What do these cyclone refugees need?
"They mainly need rice, clothing and salt at the moment. In a week, what we will need increasingly and desperately are medicines. This is because the water is not clean and we need to use water purifiers, water guards and feed them. People’s stomachs are ruined and we have cholera. And people have skin infections. What don’t know what kind. We mainly need medicines for skin diseases. At the moment this is what we need. Tomorrow, we will send mobile doctors."
DVB: While you were helping, was there any kind of official instruction telling you to channel assistance through them?
"Earlier, when Ko Kyaw Thu went there, he was told to donate help through them, but he refused. When a lot of us actors came, they stopped doing that. They are also helping now."
DVB: What is, in your opinion, the best way to give help effectively?
"The best thing to do is what we are doing now. For the time being, I have to say that this is the best way. We are putting it in their hands. We boil rice gruel in big pots, then we add dried fish and oil and feed them. And we also give them clothes, medicines, money, beans and dried fish in a packet, right in their hands, if you do things with artists like us there is less harassment – that’s our advantage."
DVB: Is there anything else you want to say?
"The other point to mention is that people who were not affected by the storm and the rains also are donating. I’m collecting things donated by people from Mandalay, and other people throughout the country are also donating."
DVB: What is the official Motion Picture Association doing now?
"As far as I know, they are still painting the ground floor of their office which was flooded."
DVB: Are they helping the victims?
"Heh heh, they have just been painting their office. I haven’t seen any of them helping anyone."
DVB: What have you seen the government do to help the victims?
"When we were there we didn’t see them do anything except clear the roads. We never saw them giving medicines or food to the people."
DVB: What do you have to say about the referendum?
"As they had already declared, they pushed ahead with it. I have nothing to say about it. We are prioritising our efforts for those who are in trouble here, I don’t even want to talk about it."
Reporting by Naw Say Phaw