According to many sources inside Burma, what little aid is being allowed into the country is being confiscated by the generals and then some portion of it is either being sold to the people at outlandishly inflated prices or an inferior substitute is being put in its place while the original aid is kept for the generals and their families or those loyal to them.
A Rangoon resident said military trucks had come to Nyaungpinlay market in the city to sell instant noodle packets, but no one had bought them. In Bogalay, you can buy raincoats donated by the UN, as many as you like for 8000 [kyat]. Rolls of tarpaulin can be bought in Bogalay’s Chinatown for 100,000 a roll. Merchants bought all 100 rolls straight away,” he said.
“A shopkeeper who sold food to refugees in Bogalay on 4 May asked soldiers from Battalion 66 to help her keep order, but the soldiers took away all her merchandise and did not return it,” he went on. “Soldiers also took away all the goods from a boat that docked in Bogalay harbour after the storm and then sold them in the market four or five days later.”
National League for Democracy spokesperson U Nyan Win said party members had seen foreign relief supplies on sale in a Rangoon market. “Our storm relief committee went to buy quite a lot of towels from Mingalar market to donate them to refugees,” he said.
“When we looked at them back in the office, they were labeled ‘WFP’ and had a Japanese flag in the middle with ‘Donated by the people of Japan’ written underneath.” Nyan Win stressed the government’s duty to ensure relief supplies get to the people who need them most.
It is a hard thing to say that we should not make donations in such an emergency. But we certainly should not make donations through the usual channels. Why? Because it only further empowers the thugs who currently hold the lives of millions in their greedy fists.
If we make contributions it should be through established NGOs that are already on the ground in Myanmar with a proven track record of getting aid to people in distress.