Contextual Content

Burma cyclone aid: A desperate lottery

The Burmese regime continues to restrict news coverage on the devastation left by cyclone Nargis, in some cases deporting foreign journalists. One reporter, whose name we are withholding for his safety, has managed to evade the authorities and find out what aid is getting to villages – where in some cases so little food arrives it is divided up by lucky draw.

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Story Transcript

Courtesy: The Guardian

VOICEOVER: This is General Than Shwe, the head of the Burmese military junta. I took these photos as the general met with victims of the cyclone for the first time. I was the only foreign journalist to witness his visit to a small camp on the edge of Rangoon, and as I stepped out in front of him with my camera, his security guards grabbed my arm and led me away. I was held outside the camp while the general completed his visit. As he drove off, my guards were distracted, and I quickly slipped away and escaped in a passing taxi. The camp is too little too late. Its line of 40 tents were not even as long as the general’s motorcade. I returned to the camp two days later and managed to interview one of the camp’s residents. He had told us he had come to the camp because his home had been destroyed by the cyclone. But when I asked him how he felt in the camp, officials told me to stop filming. Just an hour outside Rangoon, villagers line the road in hope of food. They were in luck: a small truck had come to distribute rice—one cup for each villager. This aid did not come from the government, but from concerned residents of Rangoon. We met one man who explained that the government had delivered some aid to his village, but it was so little that the village headman had to use a lucky draw to divide it up fairly. He and his family of 14 won four packets of biscuits and a pair of flip-flops. For the victims of Cyclone Nargis, getting aid is literally a matter of luck.

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