Authorities ban direct donations to fire victims

Feb 18, 2009 (DVB), Local authorities have forbidden direct donations to victims of the fire last week in Mandalay's Chanmyathasi township and have threatened those who accept donations with prosecution.

Local donors had been providing assistance to those affected by the fire on 9 February, which destroyed over 200 homes and left more than 1000 people homeless.

But donors were told on 14 February that all donations should be channelled through the local ward authority office, discouraging many potential donors.

Fire victims were also forced to move out of the religious community hall where they were taking shelter an into an open field, a local resident said.

"They told people to move to a field and live in tents near their office. People started to move out yesterday," the resident said.

"Donations are not allowed to be made in the community hall anymore, they have told people to donate at their office."

The new requirement has put off many donors from giving assistance to the victims, the local resident said.

"They told the people from the communal hall not to accept donations, and that they would be prosecuted if they did," the resident explained.

"The other day a car came, and the people from the community hall said they could not accept the donations and told the donors to give them to the office," he said.

"But the donors refused and turned back their car, so the people from the hall had to accept the donations."

One of those who accepted the donation was summoned to the authority office the following day, but it is not yet clear if he will face charges.

The resident said the number of donors had decreased because donors could not be sure that their assistance would get to the victims.

"Before donors came here in the morning and throughout the day, but now they are scarce," the resident said.

"People came to donate because they could do it directly," he said.

"If the donations go to [the authorities], only half will reach the people."

People who lost their homes and land in the fire are also worried about rumours that they will not be able to move back onto their land, the resident said.

"First they said that people would be allowed to rebuild their homes as they were, but now I have heard that they won’t be able to," he said.

"People can’t enter the fire-affected area today. They won’t give them [the land] back," he went on.

"I heard they would be moved to a remote corner in the east; people will find it hard to survive there."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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