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Friday, December 31, 2004

The Deluge

First up, this site wishes to express its condolences to the families and friends of all the Singaporeans who were killed by the Tsunamis on Sunday morning- and indeed, to the families and friends of the many, many people who were killed.

Needless to say, the Boxing Day Tsunami has been horrifyingly deadly. Not since an earthquake struck Tangshan, China in 1976 have so many people been killed in a single natural disaster. And not in living memory has a single natural disaster affected people on such a huge geographical scale- with 11 countries suffering physical damage, and many more nations in mourning over the loss of hundreds, if not thousands of their citizens.

With all due respect to the dead, however, I believe that the developed world's attention to this disaster would not have been so prompt, had it not been for the fact that so many of its holidaymakers were among the fatalities. Had it not hit popular tourist resorts in Thailand, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, the reaction of most media viewers in the developed world would have been to merely stare in gruesome fascination at the flattened shacks and scattered debris on their television screens (or newspapers, for the still literate) before flipping the channel. Indeed, as The Economist has already soberly noted,

"Such selfish distortions are regrettable in theory—who noticed while millions were dying in Congo's wars?—but in practice they might as well be exploited. It ought to be possible to raise far more in charitable donations from individuals and organisations in rich countries for relieving this disaster than for single-country earthquakes or floods, for example. "

It can also work the other way round. To take a simple example, the English Premiership clubs, who incidentally have a fanatical following in South East Asia, have so far pledged a million British pounds in Tsunami assistance. Peanuts, admittedly, if you compare it to amount of money paid each year to say, a Wayne Rooney. But better than their past record of well...not much.

The disaster, while showing the world community at some of its best gallantary this year, has I think shown one particular government at its worst. 90 or so people have been estimated to have died in Myanmar. However, its paranoid and totalitarian government has elected to deny virtually all media coverage of the event in that country!

And this remarkable piece of news from our very own Straits Times too.


Dec 31, 2004
Myanmar people get little news about tragedy
Military regime says 17 villages wiped out and 34 killed, but aid agencies say 90 people have died

AS THE death toll in Asian countries hit by the tsunamis continues to mount, little is known about the fate of people in the Irrawaddy delta and Tenasserim region, Myanmar's coastal areas swamped by Sunday's killer waves.

According to the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, the military regime's mouthpiece, 17 villages were destroyed, 200 people made homeless, 34 killed, 45 injured and 25 missing.

Its Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Major-General Sein Htwa, visited the afflicted southern coastal areas on Tuesday.

But, apart from brief reports of the tsunamis in the official media, Myanmar people have received scarcely any news about the staggering tragedy that has hit their neighbours.

Much of the updates about Myanmar's casualties came instead from aid agencies Unicef and the Red Cross in Yangon, which put the death toll at 90.

Yangon's junta does not allow any reporting of natural calamities. Last July, floods in Kachin state killed 50 people. The person who filmed the floods was arrested, said a source.

In May, a cyclone hit Arakan state, the worst in 40 years. Some 220 people were killed and 1,400 others were made homeless. The regime kept things under wraps for two weeks before finally appealing for international aid.

In this light, Myanmar's casualties from Sunday's tsunami could be worse than reported officially, a source told The Straits Times.

Thus far, there is nothing in Yangon to suggest that Myanmar's coastal population suffered massive casualties. Few in Yangon are talking about it because the capital itself is unscathed.

The regime's top leaders have sent messages of sympathy to the countries badly affected by the tragedy and have not appealed for international aid.

In Bangkok yesterday, seismologists said they recorded two earthquakes in Myanmar in the morning, but neither would spark a tidal wave. They said one measured 5.4 on the Richter scale and a second was of 5.6 magnitude, Agence France-Presse reported.

An official said no tsunami warning was issued because the quakes happened far inland.

How is it possible to even work with a regime that even denies the truth of a disaster caused by nature?

Anyway, I've come to the important part of this message. Namely, how to help.

Send your donations to:

Singapore Red Cross Society
Address your cheque to Singapore Red Cross Society.
Indicate behind the cheque "Tidal Waves Asia".

Include name, address and telephone number at the back of the cheque as a receipt will be sent to you.

Post the cheque to:
Singapore Red Cross
Red Cross House
15 Penang Lane
Singapore 238486

[Alternatively, you could just pop down to the building and make a cash donation- which was precisely what I did this morning]

Indian Red Cross Society
National Head Quarters
Red Cross Building
1 Red Cross Road
110001 New Delhi
(write “Tsunami victims” at the back of cheque)
Relief Bureau
Thai Red Cross Society
1871 Henry Dunant Road
Bangkok 10330.
Indonesian Red Cross Society
Jl. Jenderal Datot Subroto Kav. 96
12790 Jakarta
(TT - a/c 450.666.0009
account name Kantor Pusat Palang Merah Indonesia Bank BCA Menara Bidakara Jakarta)
Malaysian Red Crescent Society
JKR 32, Jalan Nipah
Off Jalan Ampang
55000 Kuala Lumpur
(Write “MRCS Relief Fund” + name and address of donor at the back of cheque)
The Sri Lankan Red Cross Society
307,2/1 T.B. Jayah Mawatha
Colombo 10
(Telegraphic transfer:
Acc of Suduwella Branch
01 431620044617
People’s Bank)
Myanmar Red Cross Society
Red Cross Building
42 Strand Road
(write “Tsunami victims” at the back of cheque)


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