Villager describes situation in Kunchangone

May 19, 2008 (DVB), A villager from Kunchangone township, Rangoon division, said the situation in the township remains difficult, with increasing problems with health, farming and law and order.

The villager told DVB in an interview that the rural areas had been particularly badly affected, and no assistance had come so far.

DVB: Are the problems in the town or the rural areas?

"It is happening in rural areas. In Tawchaung village, Kunchangone Township. On the day the storm hit, all the homes were struck down in that area. Many people were killed. In our village alone, it is estimated that 200 died. There are 500 villages in the whole township, and we estimate that more than 5,000 died."

DVB: How are the survivors coping?

"At the moment, we are waiting for donations so that we can survive. Our village is at least five miles away from town. It takes from dawn until dusk to go back and forth."

DVB: How has it affected your livelihoods?

"As our cattle are dead, we can't do any farming. The paddy fields have also destroyed and we are postponing farming. We can't sell jungle produce such as bamboos and firewood , no one buys them. So the situation is quite bad."

DVB: Has the government done anything effective in the area?

"The authorities only gave one pyi of rice for each household. But it was not free, each house had to pay 100 kyat. Big households didn't have enough to eat, as they didn't give them any extra. Now they are not giving anything. As far as I know they only gave it out for three days.

"I have been to 10 villages. Some villages have no schools, they have all been wiped out. Our village school collapsed. School will start again on the 25th. In some places, they are telling the monks to teach."

DVB: Do you have any water?

"The drinking water is in Kunchankone is quite bad. People have to go to the surrounding villages to get drinking water. At the moment private donors are leaving some pure water bottles. We need it to survive. Areas that have no roads don't have any water as the donors couldn't reach them."

DVB: Before the storm, what was the main source of income for the people?

"Most of them were growing rice, farming, selling firewood and bamboo or fishing. Now, almost all their livelihoods have been destroyed."

DVB: How is Burma's rescue and relocation department helping you?

"Currently, there is no plan like that. In our village there are 400 households. They gave 1 yard of plastic sheet to each family, and even that wasn't to all houses."

DVB: Due to the lack of water, I heard that there had been an outbreak of diarrhoea. How is the health situation?

"Dysentery is the main killer – there was a funeral the other day. They say that it is mainly dysentery. That will surely happen because the animals are starting to die in our area from unknown diseases. The water is so impure that animals have died from drinking it. Some donors have to use security precautions when they give aid, such as machetes. Some villagers looted the cars of people who went to donate aid to other villages. These are the kinds of problems we are facing in Kunchangone.

DVB: So a company car which came to donate aid was raided in front of Kunchangone town hall?

"All the materials were confiscated , rice, biscuits, beans and oil were taken away. A friend who works there told me. People from Battalion 77 and the township authority chairman were busying themselves there. They stopped cars, searched them and confiscated anything suspicious. Donors are now coming with monks , that way there are no searches as they are monks."

DVB: You might have heard that foreign countries are in the Bay of Bengal. What do you think of them coming to help?

"If they come themselves to donate to us, we would welcome them more. At the moment we have heard about it on the radio news, but nothing got through to us. Speaking as a refugee, if they come themselves, it will be much better."

DVB: Wouldn't it be effective to give aid to the SPDC?

"What we are seeing now is that they are keeping these snacks and life saving tents for themselves. Roofing materials and medicines are available in the shops. We haven't got them, but you can buy them in the shops."

DVB: Do you have anything else to say?

"In our area, robbery is rampant. Four days after the storm, villagers who had nothing to eat robbed some rich people near our village. They have had to ask the army to keep law and order. Another person who went to Dedaye for shopping was murdered.

"On the day the storm struck, some inmates in Kunchankone detention centre were killed by the flooding. They didn't open the door for them and they died. They took the corpses and dumped them into the streams. I know because a member of the local authorities told me."

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