Archive for the ‘Cyclone Giri News’ Category

Aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in early May 2008, some volunteers organized by Buddhist monasteries reached out to the cyclone victims almost unreachable villages (at that time) located along the coast of Burma’s delta regions.  Messages came to me that villages lost their drinking water ponds.  The storm surges washed away and flooded the village ponds with salt water.  In some places, water in the ponds was contaminated with debris as well as the dead bodies of animals and human. 

Drinking water ponds are vital for every rural Burma because of the shortage of water during the dry months of monsoon season.  In the Arakan (Rakhine) and Tenasserim (Tanintharyi) coastal regions and the delta regions of Lower Burma such as Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) and Rangoon (Yangon) divisions, rain is abundant in the rainy season for four months, and then the dry season sets in as temperature raising higher and higher every day during the summer months, leaving local hand-dug wells dry.  Groundwater in the soil is normally saline.  Creeks, streams and rivers are around, but they are tidal streams and water in there is saline.  Therefore, ponds are dug, and stored fresh rain water in there.
Even a smallest village needs a pond.  Many communal ponds are built as a village is in linear shape, or larger.  Traditional, smaller ponds are built for the monasteries which provide drinking water when water is scarce for the villagers, and for those villagers who wish to set free of fish as a religious merit.  Therefore, more than a single pond can be found in the villages.  The following satellite image depicts an exceptional single village holding 25 ponds in Kayan Township. 

The World Vision reported recently that more than 300 village ponds have been rehabilitated two years after Nargis hit the region.  In fact, more than a thousand of village drinking water ponds were damaged.  I believe that digging of some new wells or new ponds were replaced or abandoned the old damaged ponds.  Regardless, help is still needed for rehabilitation or construction of permanent communal village ponds.  
Please don’t forget that village ponds in Arakan (Rakhine) State that were damaged by Cyclone Giris just recently.  As you know, the Burmese military regime has been reaping the billions dollars from the oil and gas contracts with foreign companies, the money is kept for their personal account and military expansion to hold power in Burma; but not for the people who needs essential drinking water in these villages.  There are some local organizations associated with Buddhist monasteries and NGOs who are effectively help making for donations work for this effort.  I sincerely request the potential donors to assist and help them for this particular need: drinking water ponds for the villages

Credits:  Google Earth, UNOSAT, Dhamma Vihara Monastary, World Vision



Narinjara News
Nava Thakuria
Even as the military rulers of Burma (Myanmar) completed a general election in November 2010 and a new so-called democratic regime is installed in the poverty stricken country, millions of Burmese are still living in terrible conditions in the cyclones Nargis and Giri affected areas, with many without pure drinking water and food or proper shelter.

Tropical Cyclone Giri Arakan state

The lives of hundred thousand poor Burmese women have not changed though there are some plastic changes like the release of pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and many other from jails, regular sittings of parliamentarians in their new capital Nay Pyi Taw and so on.

Burma receives international media headlines with the flawed constitution and electoral laws that finally prevented the pro-democracy icon Suu Kyi to take part in the November 2010 polls. Her party National League for Democracy, which recorded massive victory in the last general election in 1990- but denied power by the junta- even faced forced dissolution as it did not register with the election commission as a mark of protest. The recent visit of Burmese President Thein Sein to India on October 12 -15, 2011 was an attempt to improve its tie with the largest democracy of the globe and also enhance the Southeast Asian country’s image as a welfare nation. But the ground reality remains almost the same.

Since the day when the devastating tropical cyclone Nargis struck Burma (Myanmar) on May 2, 2008, the women survivors remain worst sufferers. Despite the fact that three full years passed since fateful night, the relief from international agencies, originally blocked by the then military regime, remains sporadic, paltry and tragically late, those all compiled to the continued agony for the poor Burmese people primarily women and children. The cyclone, originating in the Bay of Bengal, ripped a trail of destruction across the Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions and also ravaged parts of the Bago, Mon and Kayin regions. A water wall of four meters high is said to have rolled some 25 miles inland across the Irrawaddy River Valley, flattening everything in its path. Although the military government reported the final death toll as 84,537, with 53,836 missing, independent estimates are that 140,000 were killed and tens of thousands more have never been found. The cyclone devastated the already spavined social infrastructure, and wiped out paddy fields, which at the time were being readied for the country’s primary rice crop. Even one of latest reports of Human Rights Watch, New York reveals that the Burmese government continues to deny basic freedoms and place undue restrictions on aid agencies despite significant gains in rehabilitating areas devastated by the cyclone Nargis. Mentionable is that the then Burmese group of generals named State Peace and Development Council initially did not allow international aids to its own people initially and thus they received condemnation and brickbats from the international community for their callous and cruel attitude.

“For nearly five decades, Burma’s military rulers had systematically undermined the interests of their own citizens. It wasn’t until days into the tragedy, goaded by international criticism, that the SPDC chief senior general Than Shwe found the time to visit the destroyed areas,” said in the report.

The then military chief Than Shwe and his company later softened following a personal visit of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the middle of May 2008. Slowly communications between the local government and the international agencies began to improve. Visas and travel permits were made a little easier and faster for the foreign aid workers.

The officials of Human Rights Watch however claim that the local aid workers still feel the brunt of continued repression by the military authorities. The report quoted many woman survivors of Cyclone Nargis to narrate the tale of awfulness. One May Khin, a middle aged woman from Laputta township described her pain, “Nargis was the worst experience of my life. The last thing I remember is the lightning coming together with a strong wind and later a giant wave covered my daughter and me while we were running to the monastery. Then we were separated. I was washed away by the wave and became unconscious. When I came around, there were no clothes on my body and I could not walk as I had no strength. Beside me there was a dead body.” The International Organization for Migration claimed that nearly 400,000 people in Burma were still living without a proper home after a devastating cyclone. It also disclosed that the government while failed to provide adequate food, water and shelter to the survivors, shamefully continues violating the rights of the victims as well as the local relief workers.

Quoting the officials and aid workers, The Myanmar Times, a semi-government weekly newspaper published from Rangoon, reported that even after ‘three years after Cyclone Nargis thousands remain in need of shelter assistance’.

“This is an area where there are still huge needs,” said Arne Jan Flolo, first secretary of the Norwegian embassy in Bangkok. Even the UN Human Settlements Program estimated that some 375,000 people still need housing, 36 months after the worst natural disaster that stroke Burma.

If Nargis was of higher intensity, the Cyclone Giri struck the Arakan coast with comparatively lower magnitude. The category 4 cyclone hit the western coast of Burma on October 22, 2011 affecting the whole province. Over 100 people were killed and nearly one million Burmese were affected by the cyclone. According to the UN, over 70,000 people were left homeless by the disaster.

Quoting the Arakan League for Democracy, the Narinjara news, a pro-democracy portal, reported that villages like Kyuntharyar, Pyintharhtwatwa, Taungpaw, Angu, Ywathikay, Taungnyo, Kangyemaw, Dagon, Kanthar were severely affected where the people are still running out of safe drinking water.

“There is a shortage of drinking water. In the contaminated wells and ponds, saltwater sinks and the freshwater stays atop. So people collect and use the water sitting at the top portion of the well. But it is not that safe to drink. Some people still use water contaminated with saltwater. Some use the water from the well that is full with garbage,” the ALD source claimed.

Responding to this writer’s queries, a Rangoon based UN official argues that Nargis was a tragedy that every one has learnt bitter lessons from. So the large scale deaths could have avoided in the time of Giri with more awareness and early warning efforts. Putting his individual view, Aye Win, an official of United Nations Information Centre at Rangoon said, “The earthquake in Tachilek, tragic though it was, brought a greater closeness of cooperation between the humanitarian community and the authorities. The importance of disaster risk reduction was recently underscored by the visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on DRR, Margareta Wahlstrom, to Myanmar in early October. There is now greater awareness, and more importantly, greater political willingness to approach DRR holistically because of its long term impact.” Talking to this writer from New Delhi, Thin Thin Win, an exile Burmese lady claimed that the regime had done very little for the rehabilitation for the cyclone victims and they turned out to be inhuman for the women and children. Form the ground reality, it is understood that it would take few more years to completely rehabilitate the affected people in the cyclone affected areas of Burma, she asserted.

The hapless situation has compelled the poor Burmese, mostly young girl and women to fall in trap of traffickers, the fact admitted by the UN official. The US Campaign for Burma stated in a report that the underdeveloped country emerges as a source place for women, and children who subjected to sex trafficking in other countries. Burmese children are forced to labor as hawkers and beggars in Thailand. Many Burmese men, women, and children who migrate for work in Thailand, Malaysia, China, Bangladesh, India, and South Korea are subjected to conditions of forced labor or sex trafficking in these countries. The Rangoon UN official agrees that trafficking in Burma is an important issue to deal with. It will continue to be as long as the grass is continued to be perceived as greener on the other side. The driving force therefore is poverty. The issue of poverty is now publicly and openly acknowledged, a first step on a journey of perhaps a thousand miles, to quote Confucius, Aye Win concluded. The US Campaign for Burma also added in the report, “Military and civilian officials subject men, women, and children to forced labor, and men and boys as young as 11 years old are forcibly recruited to serve in the Burma army as well as the armed wings of ethnic minority groups through intimidation, coercion, threats, and violence. Some observers estimate that thousands of children are forced to serve in Burma’s national army as desertions of men in the army continue.”


President Omar al-Bashir addressing parliament on 12 July 2011  
Mr Bashir said the move was a response to Gaddafi’s support for Sudanese rebels
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says his country gave military support to the Libyan rebels who overthrew Col Muammar Gaddafi. 

In a speech broadcast live on state television, Mr Bashir said the move was in response to Col Gaddafi’s support for Sudanese rebels three years ago.

Sudan and Libya have had a complicated and frequently antagonistic relationship for many years.

Libya was declared liberated on Sunday, two days after Col Gaddafi’s death.

‘Opportunity to reciprocate’
President Bashir said the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a Darfuri rebel group, had attacked Khartoum three years ago using Libyan trucks, equipment, arms, ammunition and money.

He said God had given Sudan a chance to respond, by sending arms, ammunition and humanitarian support to the Libyan revolutionaries.

“Our God, high and exalted, from above the seven skies, gave us the opportunity to reciprocate the visit,” he said.

“The forces which entered Tripoli, part of their arms and capabilities, were 100% Sudanese,” he told the crowd.

His speech was well received by a large crowd in the eastern Sudanese town of Kassala.
JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim lived for some time in southern Libya.

Now he is back in Darfur, in western Sudan, where an eight-year-old civil war continues.
Mr Bashir’s remarks show a desire to forge firm links with Libya’s new government.

But the easy availability of weapons in Libya, and that country’s porous border with Darfur, are also of great concern to the Sudanese authorities.

Prayer ceremonies were held at home and abroad to observe the anniversary of Cyclone Giri that slammed into the coast of western Burma’s Arakan State on the 22nd of October 2010.

Cyclone giri victims memorial prayer Arakan

The ceremonies were held in Kyaukpru and Taungok in Arakan State and in Mae Sot and Phukhet in Thailand.

U Aung Marm Oo, the director of the Arakan Human Rights Organization, said a prayer ceremony was held in a Buddhist monastery in Maepa Village in Thailand’s Mae Sot in order to make people more aware if what had happened during Cyclone Giri.

“We hold this ceremony especially to draw attention from the ethnic Burmese community as well as from the international community, and to make them aware of what really happened during that cyclone in Arakan State”, said Aung Marm Oo.

Attendees at the ceremony lit candles and prayed silently for a while according to their various religious faiths, for those who were killed and affected by the cyclone, and then speeches were given.

U Khine Oo Maung, the director of a migrant school on the Thai-Burmese border, said the natural calamity came as a result of damaging the natural environment, in his speech at the ceremony.

“Natural disasters were very rare in our childhood in Arakan State, but they are now quite frequently occurring because the natural environment that was a natural shield to such disasters has been badly damaged due to the greedy exploitation of natural resources by the Burmese military dictators in our region”, said Khine Oo Maung.

U Shwe Nhin, a Karen freedom fighter and headmaster of the migrant school, also spoke in the ceremony and said that he prays every Sunday and would continue his prayers, hoping that all people in Burma will be free from natural disasters and oppressed lives, and for peace and development in the country.

Videos and slideshows of photos from the Giri affected areas were presented in the ceremony in Mae Sot and over 120 people, including representatives of the Arakanese and other ethnic organizations, individuals and migrant workers attended in the ceremony.

Cyclone giri victims memorial candle light Thailand

A prayer ceremony was held in memory of the Giri Cyclone by the Laywady Arakanese Social Organization in Phuket in Thailand as well. “We hold this ceremony to mourn and pray for those who were killed and badly affected by Cyclone Giri on this day last year,” said Ko Soe Myint, the president of the Laywady Organization. Mourning and prayer ceremonies were also held on the anniversary of Cyclone Giri in Kyaukpru and Taungok in Arakan State.

Cyclone Giri hit hardest on the townships of Kyaukpru, Mraybon, Pauktaw and Ann in Arakan State on 22 October 2011, leaving nearly 100 people killed, 70,975 peoples homeless and over 2, 60,000 affected.
Narinjara News

An Iranian woman walks past an anti-US mural on the wall of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on 12 October 2011 The exposure of the alleged plot has heightened already fraught tensions between the US and Iran
The US has imposed sanctions on an Iranian airline it says flew members of an elite force linked to an alleged plot to kill the Saudi envoy to the US.

The US Treasury says Mahan Air ferried operatives from Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah across the Middle East.

Under the sanctions, the airline’s US assets will be frozen and US firms barred from doing business with it.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile said the alleged plot was a “dangerous escalation” by Iran.

The sanctions were unveiled a day after the authorities announced they had foiled a conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubeir, on US soil using explosives.

‘Secretly ferrying operatives’
The US government accused members of the Iranian government – and the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guard Corps – of involvement.


The sanctions on Mahan Air are the most noticeable step the US has taken following its announcement of an Iranian plot to carry out a bomb attack in Washington DC.

Iran insists that the charges are part of an American propaganda campaign. To many observers, the details of the proposed attack by a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard remain fairly puzzling.

It is not immediately clear why the force would choose Manssor Arbabsiar, a man with a criminal record, as the principal agent of its first ever attack inside the US.

Nor is it clear why Iran would want to approach a Mexican drugs cartel to plant the bomb – when cartels deliberately avoid hitting targets inside the US.

It may be that the Revolutionary Guard is more reckless in the planning of its operations than previously thought.

“It’s clear that senior levels of Quds force were engaged in the plotting,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

On Tuesday, the US also imposed sanctions against five people it linked to the alleged assassination plot, including two men charged over the investigation.

The pair were named as Manssor Arbabsiar, a 56-year-old naturalised US citizen with dual Iranian and US passports, and Gholam Shakuri, who is based in Iran.

Mr Shakuri and three others named in Tuesday’s sanctions were described as members of the Quds Force.

Mr Arbabsiar – accused of wiring $100,000 (£63,000) to a US bank account to finance the alleged $1.5m conspiracy – was charged in a New York City court on Tuesday.
US officials have said that the accused approached a US informant posing as a member of a Mexican drug cartel to carry out the assassination.

‘Mischievous scenario’
Announcing the latest sanctions on Wednesday, Treasury official David Cohen said in a statement: “Mahan Air’s close co-ordination with the IRGC-QF [Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp-Quds Force] – secretly ferrying operatives, weapons and funds on its flights – reveals yet another facet of the IRGC’s extensive infiltration of Iran’s commercial sector to facilitate its support for terrorism.”

Manssor Arbabsiar is shown in this 1993 Nueces County, Texas, sheriff's office photo Manssor Arbabsiar reportedly worked as a used care salesman in Texas

Iranian official media reported on Wednesday that the foreign ministry had summoned the Swiss ambassador to Tehran, who represents US interests in the country.

The purpose of the meeting was to “strongly” protest against the US allegations, the state television website reported.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted by Iran’s Arabic-language Alalam channel as saying: “America has launched a mischievous scenario. But be certain, they will apologise [to Iran] in the future.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council condemned the alleged plot as a “flagrant violation” of international laws and agreements.

Meanwhile, details have emerged of Mr Arbabsiar’s life in the US, including his background as a secondhand-car salesman in Texas.

David Tomscha, who once owned a used car lot with him, told AP news agency: “I can’t imagine him thinking up a plan like that. I mean, he didn’t seem all that political. He was more of a businessman.”

Mr Arbabsiar was charged with theft in 2001, according to court documents in Texas, although the charge was dropped. He was also arrested several times in the 1990s for traffic violations.

US Vice-President Joe Biden: “What we have to do is unite the entire world against Iranian behaviour”

His wife, Martha Guerrero, who lives at a house in an Austin suburb, told a local TV station they were separated and she thought he was blameless of the charges.

“I cannot for the life of me think that he would be capable of doing that,” she told KVUE. “I’m sure of that and I know that his innocence is going to come out.”

The case has strained already fraught relations between Washington and Tehran.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a mass rally on Wednesday that the Occupy Wall Street protests in the US would topple the American capitalist system.

U Maung Soe Tun stands with his wife and children outside of the family’s newly built hut in MinbyaFebruary 2011, Minbya Township – For casual labourer and father of two, U Maung Soe Tun, the arrival of Cyclone Giri on 22 October appeared to destroy his dream of owning his own house.
“Before Cyclone Giri, we lived in a very small hut and life was so hard. As a casual labourer I could only ever earn K1,500 a day, which wasn’t even enough to buy food all of the time and we lived hand-to-mouth,” he said. “But I always dreamed of building my own house.”
“On the way, I saw many buildings and trees had been flattened – even the biggest ones. I thought to myself that if those couldn’t resist the storm, then there was no chance that our little hut could possibly have escaped.
“When I finally arrived, I found that it had been destroyed and nothing was left, which made me very upset,” he said.
A few days later, aid organisations such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme and Artsen Zonder Grenzen (AZG – Médecins Sans Frontières, Holland) came to the village and distributed rice and foodstuffs, he said.
“I tried to build a temporary shelter for my family and went to the jungle to cut some wood. But I still had no money, no job and no real home to sleep in,” he said.
“Fortunately, UNDP staff came to our village to meet storm victims and held a meeting. They asked us to estimate how much it costs to build an average house. At the same time, UNDP organised a separate community meeting to identify the most vulnerable and poorest of the poor in the village, which included my family,” he said.

On 14 February, UNDP began helping 236 households in seven villages in Minbya Township to begin rebuilding their homes before the next monsoon arrives in April or May. A cornerstone of the shelter assistance programme was the training of 35 carpenters from seven villages between 26 and 30 January. Five carpenters from each of the villages travelled to Nat Shin Chaung village in Minbya Township and were given training in how to build disaster-resilient houses. Training was conducted in collaboration with UN-HABITAT.

U Maung Soe Htun was told that his family would have a new house built for them by the trainees.
“I was so happy and excited all the time, even at night. It was like a dream come true for my family, except that we could never dream of owning a house as nice as the one they built for us,” he said.
The newly trained carpenters will be responsible for supervising the construction of houses that will be funded by UNDP’s shelter assistance project. In Minbya and Myebon townships, UNDP plans to rebuild or repair nearly 1,300 homes.
Shelter and livelihoods remain central to UNDP Myanmar’s efforts to rehabilitate Giri-affected areas of Rakhine State. According to UN, at least 104,000 people are still living with host families in the four worst-hit townships of Myebon, Pauktaw, Minbya and Kyaukpyu.
The immediate shelter assistance delivered mostly has consisted of basic or emergency building supplies such as tarpaulins and plastic sheeting, all of which are short term solutions.
UNDP Resident Representative/Resident Coordinator, Mr Bishow Parajuli, stressed the severity of the shelter situation in Giri-hit areas to donors and other attendees at the recent humanitarian partnership meeting.
Shelter Project“If shelters and embankments are not rebuilt before the monsoon season and farmers are unable to plant their crops this year, the people in these townships may face a prolonged crisis,” Mr Parajuli said.
UNDP has received two Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) grants of about US$350,000 and $94,000 respectively that will be used to rebuild a number of homes and enable a few remote villages facing acute water shortages to access drinking water for a period of three months.
In terms of livelihoods, UNDP takes the lead in rebuilding embankments to protect cropping fields and restore non-agricultural livelihoods.
Immediately after Giri, UNDP has already implemented Immediate Income Generating Activities (IIGA) programmes at 40 villages in Minbya Township and 50 villages in Myebon Township that assisted more than 5,700 households. Under that programme, workers, most of whom badly required money to restart their lives after the storm, were paid K2000 a day to undertake clearing, cleaning and rebuilding work to rehabilitate jetties, footpaths, wells and other vital community infrastructure.
The second phase of the IIGA scheme is being implemented in 28 of 40 villages in Minbya Township starting mid-February. It’s expected to benefit more than 1,140 households or 3,592 people in the township. Under the scheme embankments in three villages will be rebuilt, water ponds in 15 villages will be renovated and footpaths in 10 villages will be repaired.
Every volunteer who participated in IIGA will earn at least K20,000 ($20) that will supplement the buying of livelihood assets or expand their income generating businesses.
However, a lack of funding to regenerate livelihoods also looms as a major challenge in Giri-affected areas. Post-Giri needs are estimated at $57 million, and only $22 million has been provided by donors to date.
“Humanitarian partners operating in Myanmar have been able to reach the affected areas and are providing crucial support directly to the people, in coordination with the Myanmar authorities. But funding constraints mean that many communities are left vulnerable,” Mr Parajuli said.

Cyclone Victim Hangs Himself

Posted: November 19, 2010 in Cyclone Giri News, News

Mray Bon: A cyclone victim hanged himself last week in the town of Mray Bon, the town hardest hit by the cyclone in Arakan, during a fit of depression, said townspeople.

The victim was identified as U Aung Kyaw Sein from Alay Pai Ward in central Mray Bon Town.

An elder from Mray Bon said, “He committed suicide by hanging himself in the compound of his house during a fit of depression. He lost much property, including his home, when the cyclone struck the town. He seemed to commit suicide after losing so much.”

He was reportedly faced with many challenges to his and his family’s survival after the cyclone, so he chose the path to death, another elder said.

Another middle-aged elder from Sin Daung Village in Mray Bon Township also committed suicide by hanging himself after losing much of his property in the cyclone.

A monk from Mray Bon told Narinjara over the phone that some people in Mray Bon Township have been committing suicide by hanging, while others are dying from cholera and diarrhea contracted in the aftermath of the storm.