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State newspaper underreports pagoda deaths

June 5, 2009 (DVB), Burma’s leading state-run newspaper has allegedly underreported the death toll from a collapsed pagoda, whilst authorities have threatened those who pass information on the incident to news agencies.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, which acts as the state mouthpiece, yesterday claimed that only two civilians were killed when the 50-meter high Danok pagoda collapse during renovation work last week.

But locals in Dala township have said that at least five civilians died, while a Dala resident said that the bodies of eight soldiers were recovered from the site yesterday alone.

Security around the pagoda has been tight and people have been stopped from entering the area, he said.

Moreover, the houses of those injured and killed have been watched closely so that people cannot enter and leave.

"[The military] have issued orders to their family members that if they tell someone about it and the news comes out, they will be imprisoned for at least five years," said the man.

"That’s why they dare not tell anyone, and intelligence personnel, USDA [Union Solidarity and Development Association], Swan Arr Shin [militia] and local authority members are watching them constantly."

Monks living in eight monasteries around the pagoda are neither allowed to collect alms nor be fed by local acolytes. Local authority members have been arranging meals for the monks and taking them to the monasteries.

The pagoda was re-consecrated by Senior General Than Shwe and his wife, Kyaing Kyaing, on Kason full moon day on 28 May. It collapsed two days later.

The newspaper claims that incident was due to the burden of innovation work and the drive to finish the work before monsoon begins. Locals have, however, voiced concerns that the collapse is a bad omen.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet


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