The tragedy in Burma from Cyclone Nargis that hit on May 2nd is far worse than what we have been lead to believe. During the last few days, I have interviewed Burmese refugees and seen footage of the tragedy that was taken by locals using their cell phones or other small cameras. Many Burmese have gathered this information at great personal risk with hopes that the outside world will know the true extent of the devastation, homelessness, sickness, and loss of life caused by the cyclone and the Burmese military junta’s intentional interference with international aid to the victims. While I was watching a video taken of the disaster area, it showed the destruction and people begging for aid in the Irrawaddy River Delta on a computer, in the same room there was a TV broadcast from Burma that was created by military junta. It showed a fiction of images of nice tent cities with well feed people. Unfortunately, these fabricated TV images are not the truth of what is actually happening inside the country as I learned from an eye witnesses.
Through many confidential meetings with Thai and Burmese humanitarians in northern Thailand, we were able to get disaster relief supplies into Burma. The supplies will be distributed through a network of Buddhist monks. The supplies KIRF purchased as donations include mosquito nets, tarps, blankets, antibiotics and other emergency medical aid. The many people who are making an effort to make this happen are very brave because they are at serious risk of harm if the military junta finds out what they are doing. KIRF, through it contacts with these local humanitarians are using this unofficial aid network to get disaster relief into the country. Others have joined our effort and a new load of supplies are going across the same route n the next few days.
I wish I could tell you the names of the brave people who helped us get supplies into their country but for their safety, I cannot. Burma is a dangerous place right now. For instance, when we delivered our truck loads at the border crossing we were provided an armed guard by the unofficial aid network for protection.
Now that we have established an effective means to get the supplies to the disaster victims in Burma, KIRF intends to send more aid soon. KIRF will ensure that funds donated to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis goes to purchasing disaster relief that gets delivered into Burma. We will do this so that we can purchase more supplies for the cyclone victims, many of which are now dying from treatable infections, disease, and starvation.
One of the major populations devastated by the cyclone in the Irrawaddy River delta and southern region of Burma, are being denied aid by the Myanmar military, is the Karen people. The Karen are one of several major ethnic groups in Burma with their own culture and language. For years, the Karen have been struggling to keep their traditional territory called the Karen State and their ancestral homesteads near the Thai border from being appropriated by the Burmese military junta through a systematic program of genocide that has included mass murder, rape, torture, forced labor, and the dispersal of land mines. The Karen State is rich in natural resources such as natural gas, timber and rice farming.