Myanmar Political Party Calls For Emergency Fund For Flood Victims in Rakhine State

myanmar-floods-myawaddy-july31-2015.jpg Villagers walk through flood waters in Myawaddy in southeastern Myanmar's Kayin state, July 31, 2015.

Severe floods caused by torrential monsoon rains in western Myanmar have killed 10 people, prompting the dominant political party in the hard-hit region to call on Friday for the establishment of an emergency fund for victims.

The Arakan National Party (ANP) of Rakhine state wants to set up emergency fund for flood victims in the area and is urging the national government to provide critical assistance, a party official said.   

“We’re asking the central government to help immediately to solve the crisis with tremendous funding since the state government cannot do it alone,” said Khine Pyi Soe, the ANP’s vice president. “Moreover, we also urge all international aid organizations to coordinate with the government for help and rescue.”

The worst-hit areas in Rakhine state include the Minbya, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw and Ann townships, where a total of 463 villages have been submerged, three have been washed away, and 10 people are known to have died, he said.

“We are collecting data on missing livestock in Pauktaw township, but have no information yet on human fatalities,” Khine Pyi Soe said.

But the national government has yet to step in to help, he said, adding that victims whose homes were flooded have taken shelter inside nearby monasteries.

Some places are reported to be under 12 feet of water, he said.

“Only some civil groups have been handing out food, but this is not sustainable and is for the short term,” he said.

Impoverished Rakhine state is home to nearly 3.2 million people, including roughly 140,000 Rohingya Muslims displaced by communal violence, who live in government-designated camps near the town of Sittwe.

Heavy seasonal rains have drenched and flooded Myanmar’s western and northernmost regions since the end of June, causing landslides, bursting dams, wiping out roads and bridges, destroying farmland, and forcing schools, markets, businesses and community buildings to close. More rains and strong winds moved across the area on Thursday as tropical Cyclone Komen crossed the Bay of Bengal.

Kachin state in northern Myanmar, Shan state in the east, and Kayin state in the southeast also have been battered by torrential rains and subsequent floods.

The latest number of those who have perished across the country stands at at least 27, and about 150,000 people have been displaced or had their livestock affected by floods, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

Group to collect money

In a related development, the influential 88 Generation group of former student leaders will start collecting money to help flood victims across the country.  

“On Sunday, we are going to ask for help and aid from the public and with some celebrities, so that awareness will be increased and public support will follow, said Min Ko Naing, president of the Universities Student Union of Myanmar and a leading democracy activist and dissident. “This is the time for people to support each other.”

The group, a pro-democracy movement known for its activism against the country’s former military junta, has been conducting rescue activities in Kawlin township in Sagaing division in northwestern Myanmar.  

“Regular transportation is not possible at this time,” said Min Ko Naing. “Victims are waiting for rescue and relief from atop their roofs, but no one can reach them because the water transportation network is broken. Bridges and roads are damaged or are underwater. Water is everywhere.”

He said relief workers needed life jackets as well as helicopters and planes, which only the national government and other authorities could provide.

“So we must ask the government and international community without trying to save face,” he said. “We have to be frank that public is dire need of relief, and we have to say it.”

The floods has cut off electricity in Kalay district, the westernmost district of Sagaing Division, so residents lack power and are contemplating how they can survive, he said.

Min Ko Naing said the Myanmar government should ask the international community for help without shame or embarrassment.

“We must get international aid to do our work,” he said. “We cannot survive on small grassroots aid for long. We are very worried about this.”

Reported by Wai Yan Moe Myint and Zar Ni Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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