Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cyclone Relief Fundraiser / House Party

Sunday, Sep 28, 2008 - 6:30-8:30pm
(program starts 7:00pm sharp)
San Francisco Mission location, near 24th/Mission.
Email for location and directions.

Local Burma expert Rick Heizman has been to Burma 20 times—and is going again in early October—for the third time this year. Rick will give a short dynamic presentation and answer questions about the mega-disaster and his related work. Rick will be raising funds to rebuild and repair schools and orphanages, sponsor and facilitate art and music therapy for traumatized kids, and help people reestablish their livelihoods and help kids regain a hopeful childhood.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

8-8-08 - 20th Anniversary of 8-8-88

August 8, 2008 (8-8-08) is not only the day of the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics; it is also the twentieth anniversary of historic protests that ignited a global movement for change in Burma.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the cities of San Francisco and Berkeley have proclaimed August 8th, "Burma Day."

To commemorate this there will be three events:

- Flag raising in Berkeley, 7:45 - 8:30 am
- Rally in San Francisco's Union Square, 4:00-7:00 pm
- Gallery event in San Francisco, 6:00-9:00 pm

For info on these events visit:

For info about other events around the world, check out:

Click to enlarge

Monday, July 28, 2008

Food Bazaar: Burma and China Disaster Relief

Fund Raising Food Bazaar and Silent Auction
Sunday, August 10, 2008 - 11:00am–2:00pm

3003 Scott Blvd, Santa Clara, CA

More info»

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Candles for Burma

The non-profit advocacy group, Ethical Traveler, has revived their Candles for Burma campaign.

This campaign - wherein visitors to the ET web site can post images in solidarity with the people of Burma - originally ran for Aung San Suu Kyi's 60th birthday.

Now, three years later, the campaign is being revived to draw attention to all prisoners of conscience in Burma (including Aung San Suu Kyi) and to show solidarity with the victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Show your solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi and all the prisoners of conscience in Burma.

Show your solidarity with the victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Candles for Burma»

June 17 - Flashpoints Radio

Dennis Bernstein updated his listeners on the post-cyclone situation with the help of Kenneth, Nandi, and Nick (just back from Burma).

Listen here:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 14/15 Events - Photos

The events on June 14 and 15 were both very successful. View photos from each by following the links below.

June 14 - BAWA Burma Women's Day, Fremont

View Photos»

June 15 - Nargis Fundraiser, San Bruno

View Photos»
View More Photos (from Ko Ko Lay)»

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bay Area Burmese Community Continues Humanitarian Assistance Work

A message to the media...
Bay Area Burmese Community Continues Humanitarian Assistance Work for the Victims of Cyclone Nargis Using Underground Networks

The past few weeks have shown that the Burmese military junta, once again, is not true to its word.

Head thug Than Shwe gave Ban Ki-Moon assurances that he would allow the free flow of aid to the cyclone victims. Ban went away happy and has barely been heard from on this topic since. Assistance continues to be hampered by the Burmese regime as a million or more people suffer without proper help.

International giving has paled in comparison to that for China quake relief because donors are concerned that their money will go to the junta instead of to the people. They have good cause to be concerned.

The Burmese community abroad knows there is an alternative. They channel money through the sangha - the Buddhist monks. The monks are in a unique position to effectively provide assistance to the cyclone victims via underground, grassroots channels.

Here in the Bay Area, the Burmese community has raised over $100,000. This money is being channeled through Sasana Moli - the International Burmese Monks Organization. Sasana Moli is stepping in to care for the people, where the government is not.

This coming weekend - June 14 and 15 - there will be two important fund-raising events in the Bay Area.
The local Burmese community recognizes the critical need to keep the fund-raising going and to keep this story in the news.

Please consider covering one or both of these events.

Saturday, June 14, 2008
Burmese American Women's Alliance (BAWA) presents
A Celebration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday & Burma's Women's Day
TIME: 5:00pm to 8:00pm
LOCATION: Los Cerritos Community Center
3377 Aldar Ave
Fremont, CA
View Map
View Details (blog post)

Sunday, June 15, 2008
SF Bay Area Burmese Community presents
Cyclone Relief Fund Raising Event
TIME: 10:00am to 3:00pm
LOCATION: Capuchino High School
1501 Magnolia Ave
San Bruno, CA
View Map
View Details (blog post)

Thanks for your support,

~Gregg Butensky
Member, Board of Directors
Burmese American Democratic Alliance

Monday, June 9, 2008

Exiled Burmese Monk Lambastes Junta

Viji Sundaram's interview with U Pannya Vamsa during his recent Bay Area visit.

Editor's Note: Chairman of the International Burmese Monks Organization - 81-year-old U Pannya Vamsa - speaks to New America Media about the way Burmese monks are organizing to give aid to cyclone victims in Burma. Viji Sundaram is an editor for New America Media.

The world community has been watching in shock and amazement as Burma’s military government continues to watch the victims of Cyclone Nargis starve while relief just waits offshore. The May 2 cyclone left some 133,000 dead or missing and 2.4 million survivors. Latest reports from the United Nations indicate that about 60 percent of the survivors have still not received any food, water or shelter. Read more»

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Compassion With Fashion - Event Photos

The Compassion With Fashion fund-raising event was held on Saturday, June 7.

View photos by Ko Ko Lay»

RebuildBurma Fund-Raiser Success

The June 6 fund-raiser was well attended and about $1500 was raised for cyclone relief efforts.

View photos by Kenneth Wong»

Friday, June 6, 2008

Venerable U Pannya Vamsa Vists San Francisco

Venerable U Pannya Vamsa visited the San Francisco Bay Area on May 31 and June 1 along with Ashin Nayaka.

The visit was covered in an article by Christine Morente in the San Mateo County Times.
Read the article online»

View Ko Ko Lay's Photos

Compassion with Fashion: A Benefit for Burma

Art and Creativity Power Compassionate Acts of Kindness
  • Date: Saturday, June 7, 2008
  • Time: 6:30pm to 10:00pm
  • Location: San Rafael Community Center
    628 B Street
    San Rafael, CA 94901
  • Admission price: $5.00 (entry only)
  • Admission with appetizers: $15.00
A Kid-to-Kid Production
Students at Davidson Middle School in San Rafael, feeling great empathy towards the Burmese children, quickly mobilized to create a fashion show and silent auction to raise money to help in the relief efforts.

More info:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Burma News and Analysis on Flashpoints [KPFA FM]

Recent coverage on Flashpoints, hosted by Dennis Bernstein, includes the following two radio shows.

Flashpoints, May 28 listen»
Guest: Kenneth Wong

Flashpoints June 2 listen»
Guests: Kenneth Wong, Ko Ko Lay

Flashpoints airs each weekday from 5:00-6:00pm on KPFA FM in Berkeley (and online). Tune in Tuesday, June 3, as Dennis will have guests calling in with first hand reports from inside Burma.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Women's Day / Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday

Burmese American Women's Alliance (BAWA) Presents

A Celebration of
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday &
Burma's Women's Day

DATE: Saturday, June 14, 2008
TIME: 5 PM to 8 PM
Los Cerritos Community Center
3377 Alder Ave, Fremont, CA
View Map»

Aung San Suu Kyi is a national hero in the fight for a free Burma and a symbol of hope in the downtrodden country. In 1991, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" and became an international symbol of peaceful resistance and courage in the face of hardship and oppression. In 1990, she was put under house arrest by the government and remains there to this day.

The event will include...

For more info, please visit:

Rebuild BURMA - Fund Raiser at Space Gallery

Cocktails - Silent Auction
Burmese Appetizers - Burmese Dance Performance

Space Gallery
1141 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA

Friday Jun 6, 2008
7 PM to Midnight

On June 6, we plan to tell the story of the Burmese cyclone victims’ plight with an intimate photo exhibit, as well as a silent auction of gorgeous Burmese photos for the benefit of the disaster survivors.

View Flyer [PDF]

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cyclone Relief Fund Raising Event Announced

Click to enlarge.
We want to cordially invite you to our Cyclone Relief Fund Raising Event as a first ever SF Bay Area Burmese Community effort for Cyclone Nargis Victims of Burma.

The programs of the event will include:
  • Food Fair from Burmese Organizations and Donors
  • Burmese Ethnic Cultural Shows and Dances,
  • Multi-religious Prayers,
  • Speakers and Cyclone Aftermaths Presentations.
  • Burma’s most renowned Classic Singer Daw Mar Mar Aye will help perform in our event with Metta.
  • Students of Theravada Dhamma Society (TDS) will offer Swan (Alms food) to Buddhist Monks from Bay Area Monasteries.
  • Karen Fellowship will help perform the Karen Bamboo Dance if chance is given.
  • United States Burmese Medical Association (USBMA) will offer a free Health Screening and Education program for the community. There will be a First Aid team during the event too.
Sunday, June 15, 2008 -- 10:00am - 3:00pm
Capuchino High School Campus
1501 Magnolia Avenue, San Bruno, CA

View Map»

Nick Leaving for Burma Tomorrow

Lisa Amin Reporting
ABC7 KGO News - Watch Video

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Chairman of IBMO in San Francisco Bay Area - update

U Pannya Vamsa
photo by Peter Morris

Venerable U Pannya Vamsa
Chairman of the International Burmese Monks Organization
will be in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend

Burma - The Local Angle

On May 5, members of the Burmese Community in the San Francisco Bay Area responded to news of the devastating Cyclone Nargis in Burma by forming a Joint Action Committee.

Just two days later, individuals and representatives of some 27 organizations came together for the first meeting of the JAC. At that meeting it was decided to initiate fund raising on multiple fronts and to channel relief funds via the International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO) - aka Sasana Moli.

Because the ruling junta in Burma has shown that it can't be trusted to channel assistance to those in need, donor contributions have paled in comparison with those for the recent earthquake in Sichuan, China.

Some 2.5 million lives are at stake in Burma. The Burmese monks are trusted by the people and they are not waiting for permission from the junta to bring critically needed assistance to the cyclone survivors.

The International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO)

The IBMO was formed last October following the brutal crackdown of peaceful demonstrators in Burma the previous month. Burmese monks living in exile around the world came together in Los Angeles and formed the organization to raise international awareness of Burma's situation and to lobby international governments.

The internationally renowned Avaaz organization has raised over $2 million and is channeling this money primarily through the IBMO. A recent report from Avaaz is here:

Venerable Sayadaw U Pannya Vamsa

Venerable U Pannya Vamsa - co-founder and Chairman of the IBMO who makes his home in Penang, Malaysia - will be in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend.

U Pannya Vamsa has been on an international tour, urging the global public to join the ongoing struggle for Burma. For over 50 years, he has tirelessly worked to establish Buddhist centers around the world. He has now taken up the responsibility to raise funds for the victims of cyclone Nargis and to ensure efficient distribution of the collected donations. We encourage everyone to take advantage of this rare opportunity to hear a sermon by the abbot.

Scheduled Sermons:

Saturday, May 31, 2008, 6:00 PM
Metta Nanda Vihara Dharma Retreat (Monastery)
4619 Central Avenue
Fremont, CA 94536
Contact: (510) 795-0405

Sunday, June 1, 2008, 6:30 PM
(Both English and Burmese languages)
Jefferson High School
699 Serra Monte Blvd.
Daly City, CA 94015
Theravada Dhamma Society
Contact: (415) 793-2512

More Info [PDF]

More on U Pannya Vamsa:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Eyewitness to Nargis

(Image: Sitagu Sayadaw reassures a patient suffering from dehydration and shock, from the flickr album by a user named Cyclone Nargis.)

In the aftermath of cyclone Nargis, a 165 MPH monster that ripped through Burma's Irrawaddy Delta and turned much of the fertile region into a waste land, green-clad soldiers from the Tatmadaw (the Burmese Army) are nowhere to be found. Instead, maroon-robbed Buddhist monks emerge as the heroes leading the rescue and recovery effort.

A flickr photo album from an anonymous user named Cyclone Nargis shows the efforts of Sitagu Sayadaw (the Abbot of Sitagu Monastery) to bring relief to the survivors.

Rangoon University, already suffering from neglect since the student-led uprising in 1988. now resembles a jungle. The congregation hall still stands, but surrounded by abandoned lecture halls and uprooted trees. A Picasa photo stream by MoeMaka shows the devastation.

Another Picasa photo stream (warning: contains disturbing images) by Salai Than shows a closer look at the human toll and the devastation to the land.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Chairman of IBMO in San Francisco Bay Area

Announcing Two Sermons by
The Venerable U Pannya Vamsa
Abbot of Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple, Penang, Malaysia
President of Sasana Moli, International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO)

As president of the IBMO, Venerable U Pannya Vamsa has been on an international tour, urging the global public to join the ongoing struggle for Burma. For over 50 years, he has tirelessly worked to establish Buddhist centers and spread the Dharma around the world. He has now taken up the responsibility to raise funds for the victims of cyclone Nargis and to ensure efficient distribution of the collected donations. We encourage everyone devoted to Buddha's teachings, the survival of Buddhism, and the cause of the cyclone victims to take advantage of this rare opportunity to hear a sermon by the abbot.

Scheduled Sermons:

Saturday, May 31, 2008, 6:00 PM
Metta Nanda Vihara Dharma Retreat (Monastery)
4619 Central Avenue
Fremont, CA 94536
Contact: (510) 795-0405

Sunday, June 1, 2008, 6:30 PM
(Both English and Burmese languages)
Jefferson High School
699 Serra Monte Blvd.
Daly City, CA 94015
Theravada Dhamma Society
Contact: (415) 793-2512

More Info [PDF]

March and Vigil Targeting ASEAN

May 23, 2008 - March and Vigil
Singapore Consulate, San Francisco

KPFA Evening News Coverage [Burma segment starts at 36:45]
Press Release [PDF]

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Traveler's Perspective

by Laurie Weed

Hi everyone,

I visited Myanmar (Burma) less than a month before Cyclone Nargis hit and met many wonderful people there. Along with many of you, I'm now watching in horror as the junta turns a devastating natural disaster into a genocide by refusing access to the UN and other experienced international relief agencies. My heart is breaking for the Burmese people, who are suffering more than ever.

Since the cyclone, I've received reports from friends inside and the situation is dire. J., the founder and director of a volunteer-run preschool I visited in March, lives in Myanmar full time. He writes that their school was badly damaged but they are all safe, at least for now. The surrounding villages were hit very hard and the school is providing water, food, and shelter for the children and families who lost their homes. Five families are now living in the one remaining school building, along with several babies and toddlers whose parents cannot care for them until they rebuild their homes.

J. and his staff are deeply committed to the local community: they are trusted and trustworthy, providing a safe haven for children and their families in the aftermath of the cyclone. They have the resources and local know-how to acquire supplies and distribute them efficiently, but time and money are running short, and prices are increasing by the day.

Photos online: Before and After Cyclone Nargis
J.'s letter, which describes conditions during and after the cyclone, can be read here:

What's happening now?
Some aid is arriving through official channels, but it is not nearly enough. The junta is still blocking the efforts of most international agencies and throwing up smokescreens instead of real help. It's shocking that this could be allowed to continue. This op-ed piece from the New York Times (5/21) sums up the status quo:

The school has emergency funds to hold them over until June 1, when we've scheduled an additional delivery of cash (see "how to help" below.) J. has left the school in the capable hands of his staff and gone into the Yangon delta, the area hit hardest by the cyclone. With a team of local volunteers, they are running clandestine deliveries of food and supplies directly to hungry and displaced families, without government interference.

Dispatches from the front lines
"We went to Konyangon, and we conducted one successful food distribution there. At this time it's difficult for expatriates to move into the affected areas far down in the delta region, so we are sending a local assessment team and when there are back we send a transport with the supplies we know are needed. We have the capacity to efficiently carry out thus operations with [name removed] as the main local person and a full team of locals packing and distributing."

"We are sending two trucks at midnight to Dedaye in Ayeyarwaddy division. I am not on board since foreigners are not allowed; [name removed] and other locals go. We hope to continue sending materials for as long as needed, we have the team to effectively assess, transport and distribute supplies rapidly. So far we go with five items to all households in the targeted villages, the items are rice, beans, oil, jaggery (raw cane sugar), salt. 2 trucks (10 feet) can transport food for about 580 families for 6 days."

How to help
Thanks to your generosity and effort, we've raised over $900 US so far just from this dispatch. Even passing the word on to your contacts is a huge help -- several donations came in from people I don't personally know. Your concern for the Burmese people is truly appreciated. Thank you.

Many of you are already involved in cyclone relief efforts and this is not meant to pressure you - but if you are able to help some of the cyclone survivors through this channel, please do. Even small donations will make a big difference -- for example, $40 USD will buy enough rice to feed a family of four for one month.

The current priorities of this project are:

1. To continue to feed the people who have come to the school for assistance.

2. To help the five families now living at the school to collectively rebuild their homes, one at a time.

3. To identify and help other families in the village who need emergency relief: providing water, food, shelter, and medical care.

If you can give something to the cause, please contact me at:

I'm working with a trusted contact here in the Bay Area who will deliver cash in person. After assessing the options, we determined this would be the quickest and most efficient way to send funds. The courier leaves for Myanmar on June 1, so there's still time to donate to this mission if you would like to help. Every dollar collected through this channel will buy food and other emergency supplies for the cyclone survivors.

Please continue to help spread the word and let the Burmese cyclone survivors know they have not been forgotten.

Thank you,

Laurie Weed
writer, editor, vagabond

Subscribe to Songlines:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein [Radio Program]

Upon the arrival of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Burma, Dennis covered the Burma topic as the lead story on today's Flashpoints program. His guests this time around were:
Kenneth Wong
Ko Ko Lay
Jean Gale
Gregg Butensky

You can listen here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Your Call Radio Show

The one hour discussion on KALW Radio,
hosted by Rose Aguilar, included guests:

Ko Ko Lay (in studio)
U Kovida (in studio)
Dr. Tint Swe (by phone from India)
Debbie Stothard (by phone from Thailand)

[Check back for a link to listen to the show.]

Your Call Radio - KALW 91.7 FM

Tune in to KALW 91.7 FM Tuesday, May 20 at 9:00pm PST, for a special Trans-Pacific edition of the Your Call radio program, as they look at the situation in Burma. How have the disastrous cyclone and the slow response of the military government changed the prospects for democracy in Burma?
Live on the Internet at:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Press Coverage for May 17

More Photos»
Yet More Photos»

Global Day of Action

KPFA Berkeley 94.1 FM
KPFA was broadcasting live from the rally in San Francisco from 4:00-5:30pm. The entire program is available here: [includes photos]

Special thanks to host Dennis Bernstein and his crew, and to Kenneth Wong for co-hosting.

View photos from Global Day of Action events around the world

Dr. Sein Win Accepts Honorary Degree for
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from Dominican University

Burma Exile in Bay Area Urging Americans to Send Aid

Burmese opposition leader says world must act
John King, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, May 18, 2008

Reuters photos:
Moemaka coverage [in Burmese]

Exiled Burmese politician seeks Bay Area support
By Matt O'Brien - Contra Costa Times

Former Burmese leader visits Dominican
Jennifer Upshaw - Marin Independent Journal

Burmese opposition leader says world must act

John King, San Francisco Chronicle

A leading opponent of Burma's military regime spoke at a Marin County college graduation on Saturday and called on the world's largest nations to help victims of Cyclone Nargis - whether the current regime approves or not.

"The international community must act immediately and effectively to save millions of lives," said Sein Win, prime minister of the National Coalition Government Union of Burma, a self-proclaimed government-in-exile that opposes the military, which has controlled Burma since 1962.

Win spoke in San Rafael at the undergraduate commencement of Dominican University of California, a private institution that invited him to accept an honorary doctorate degree on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi.


Disaster Relief Fundraiser

Sunday, May 18, 2008
Newark, CA

Sponsored by The Youth Groups of Fremont

Sunday, May 18, 10:30a-3:00p
Newark Pavilion
6430 Thornton Ave, Newark, CA

Contact: Michael
(510) 673-6842
More Details


Click to enlarge
THIS MAP IS AT: Nargis situation as of May 17
Click to enlarge
THIS MAP IS AT: Delta population chart
and many more good maps and charts are at:
if you have google earth: Burma interactive GoogleEarth

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dr. Sein Win in San Francisco

Dr. Sein Win
Prime Minister, NCGUB
Will be in San Francisco!
May 17 & 18, 2008

The NCGUB (National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma) is the Burmese Government in Exile. There will be three events for the press and public:

Sat May 17 - Dominican University, San Rafael
Sat May 17 - Rally, San Francisco
Sun May 18 - Community Meeting and Dinner, Fremont
Click for details
Contact: Gregg - 415 867 0377

Thursday, May 15, 2008

SAT MAY 17: A Global Day of Action for Burma


Help Save Burma Cyclone Victims

Saturday, May 17, 2008 - 3 pm to 6 pm
Rally / March / Memorial
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Sein Win

United Nations Plaza
Market Street between 7th & 8th Streets
San Francisco, CA

Download Flyer [PDF]
Download Press Release [PDF]

Sponsored by:
Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA) –
Burmese American Women’s Alliance (BAWA) -
Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) –
Association of Burmese Students San Francisco (ABSSF)
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS)

Burmese Monks Fast for Starving Cyclone Victims

United Nations, New York City - May 15, 2008

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Burmese Monks to Fast for Starving Cyclone Victims

Ask United Nations to Take Action to Save 2 Million People

Thursday & Friday May 15 & 16
Ralph Bunch Park, across from UN
43rd St. and 1st Ave. New York City

Join the Fast
Join the Prayers and Meditation
Support the Monks and the People of Burma

Thursday, May 15 3-7pm
Friday, May 16 9am-6pm

Supporters are invited to join the monks as they fast with alarm and grief for their country. Please come and support this courageous, peaceful action. They petition the United Nations to take action immediately in Burma before more people die of starvation through willful government neglect.

If you want to join the fast, you are very welcome!!! The monks will eat their last meal Thursday morning and then will break the fast Saturday morning. If you wish to fast for any of that time, or part of that time, please do. Please wear white if you are fasting so that you can be identified. All are welcome to come and meditate and pray with the monks. The more the better, and the stronger the message will be.

These days of fasting, meditation, and prayers is sponsored by the International Burmese Monks Organization, (
International Burmese Monks Organization, IBMO 84-32 Apt. #2A Grand Ave Elmhurst, NY 11373
Phone & Fax: (718) 426-3959 -- Email: --

Please call Moe Chan at 718-396-1464 or Ashin Nyaka at 347-665-5323 for more information.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Monks trying to help,

but government gets in way

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

(05-13) 04:00 PDT Kyi Bui Khaw, Burma -- The saffron-robed monks who spearheaded a bloody uprising last fall against Burma's military rulers are back on the front lines, this time providing food, shelter and spiritual solace to cyclone victims.

The military regime has moved to curb the Buddhist clerics' efforts, even as it fails to deliver adequate aid itself. Authorities have given some monasteries deadlines to clear out refugees, many of whom have no homes to return to, monks and survivors say.

"There is no aid. We haven't seen anyone from the government," said U Pinyatale, the 45-year-old abbot of the Kyi Bui Khaw monastery sharing almost depleted rice stocks and precious rainwater with some 100 homeless villagers huddled within its battered compound.

Similar scenes are being repeated in other areas of the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon, the country's largest city, where monasteries became havens after Cyclone Nargis struck May 3 - and the regime did little.

"In the past I used to give donations to the monks. But now it's the other way around. It's the monks helping us," said Aung Khaw, a 38-year-old construction worker who took his wife and young daughter to a monastery in the Rangoon suburb of Hlaingtharyar after the roof of his flimsy house was blown away and its bamboo walls collapsed.

One of the monastery's senior monks said he tried to argue with military officials who ordered the more than 100 refugees to leave.

"I don't know where they will go. But that was the order," he said, asking for anonymity for fear of reprisals.

The government has not announced such an order, which appeared to be applied selectively. Other monasteries in Rangoon have been told to clear out cyclone victims in coming days, the monk said, but in the delta, refugees were being allowed to remain or told they could come to monasteries for supplies but not shelter.

"They don't want too many people gathering in small towns," said Hla Khay, a delta boat operator. The regime "is concerned about security. With lots of frustrated people together, there may be another uprising."

Larger monasteries were being closely watched by troops and plainclothes security men - "invisible spies" as one monk called them.

Such diversion of manpower at a time when some 1.5 million people are at risk from disease and starvation reflects the regime's fear of a replay of last September, when monks led pro-democracy demonstrations that were brutally suppressed.

Monks were shot, beaten and imprisoned, igniting anger among ordinary citizens in this devoutly Buddhist country. An unknown number remain behind bars, and others have yet to return to their monasteries after fleeing for fear of arrest.

"I think after the September protests, the government is afraid that if people live with the monks in the monasteries, the monks might persuade them to participate in demonstrations again," said a dentist in Rangoon, who also asked that his name not be used for fear of reprisals.

Newspapers have been ordered not to publish stories about monks aiding the people, and at least one monastery and one nunnery in Rangoon were prohibited from accepting any supplies from relief organizations.

"The government is very controlling," said U Pinyatale, the abbot at the Kyi Bui Khaw monastery. "Those who want to give directly to the victims get into trouble. They have to give to the government or do it secretly. (The military) follows international aid trucks everywhere. They don't want others to take credit."

It appears unlikely that foreign aid organizations seeking to enter Burma will be allowed to use monks as conduits for relief supplies as many had hoped.

"One of the best networks already in place in the country are the monks," said Gary Walker of PLAN, a British relief group, speaking from Bangkok.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Flashpoints with Dennis Bernstein [Radio Program]

Cyclone coverage with Bay Area guests.

Mon May 12, 2008
Ko Ko Lay and Alan Clements with Dennis Bernstein

Fri May 9, 2008
Ruth Goode, Kenneth Wong and Coban Tun with Dennis Bernstein

Tue May 6, 2008
Ko Ko Lay with Dennis Bernstein

Flashpoints airs weekdays at 5:00pm on KPFA, 94.1 FM
More Info

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bay Area puts efforts to help Burma

Pamela Tom Reporting
ABC7 News - Watch Video

FREMONT, CA (KGO) -- The Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA) organized a fundraiser in Fremont and in just a few hours, they raised $5,000 dollars totaling 11,000 to send to Myanmar. The aid willl be sent in cash and will funnel through discrete channels in Burma and end up with Burmese monks. Burmese monasteries have offered refuge to many victims of last weeks cyclone and in the Bay Area, we witnessed the power of prayer and patriotism. READ MORE»

Saturday, May 10, 2008

School Damage Report

Photos and report - just came in from Yangon - from a school project that I help in a distant suburb of Yangon. Below the photos, read the report by the man who started and runs several schools like this. I've been in touch with people in Yangon for three days now, and am getting these kinds of photos and reports about the various projects that I am involved with, and I have assigned some of my contacts there to document other damage and needs as they find them. I'll be there in 3 weeks aiding these and many needs - and with your help we can make a difference.

main school, kitchen

water filter

we need a new kitchen

new daycare center - before & after

daycare- first day, 5 siblings

Dear friends,
Internet wasn't working for a couple of days and electricity isn't available nor will it be for a good while. There is lack of water for drinking, bathing etc, in the case of the school we are fortunate to have a water filter and a diesel engine with enough fuel to supply for cooking and drinking. Also we have a treadle pump by the dug well which enables people to take bath and wash clothes. Many people carry water from afar and boiling water is increasingly difficult with the rain soaking the environment and the markets short of supplies, and of course no electricity is available.

In Thanlyin our daycare school which was opened in January this year was completely demolished and our kitchen was also thoroughly blown apart. The only building which remains is our wooden preschool. I was staying in the school on the night of the cyclone. The howling went on all night and the force increased around break of dawn. I could barely make my way out, but realized the need for securing cooking possibilities and rescued the stove and gas cylinder to cook in the preschool which now also house our daycare children. Five families sleep in the school since their houses have been destroyed and we provide food to them as well as all children in daycare. Other village children from families in extreme need come twice a day for a meal.

Ayawaddy division and Yangon are among the hardest hit areas and these are also the areas that produce most of the rice in Myanmar. The crops in the paddy fields have gone lost and prices already soaring in the markets might continue to be shockingly high creating need for further feeding initiatives. The price of rice has risen drastically, reportedly up to 3 times the normal price and the local markets are running out of stock. The first thing I did after the winds had calmed down was to pull a trolley to the local market two bus stops down the road in order to bring some emergency provisions back to school. Every 50 meters fallen trees blocked the road and no transport could use the roads for several days, still transport is comparatively limited in many parts of the suburbs of Yangon, fuel is costly and supplies are scarce. Thick trees, traffic lights, roofing materials, broken walls and fallen signboards still obstructed the way when I made it in to Yangon several days after the cyclone passed. And people still lack water and electricity. Without electricity they cannot pump water. Some diesel engines are pulled around on carts to be used for pumping water by households paying for the service. From ground level people hand buckets up the stairways to their apartments. Prices on roofing, nails and other construction materials have gone up considerably.

Incidentally I was in the school at the time of the cyclone; otherwise it wouldn't have been possible for me to reach there by any means of transport. Nobody here was prepared since information on the caliber of the approaching winds hadn't been available. The destruction has been massive. Enormous trees of 200 years or more are witnesses that this was an incident without a second in the recent history of Myanmar. Lacking any good source of information it is difficult to get an overview of the disaster but in the villages around Thanlyin about 80% of the houses have been damaged and 50% severely broken or completely demolished.

Walking in the debris of the villages 4 days ago we took another 7 children below 2.5 years into immediate care in our school, providing medicines, food and a safe space while their parents try to patch together something of a home to shelter them from the rains. And naturally there are more children to respond to, we look to the youngest first and those without enough parental support or those in ill health. We will make efforts to continue to keep these children in our daycare since we understand that their families had a hard time making a living already before the cyclone struck and now conditions are even worse. We hope to receive enough support to reconstruct the daycare school and to help the most needy families in our area to rebuild their homes.

Raising Money for Burma's People

Leslie Brinkley Reporting
KGO - ABC7 News - Watch Video

SAN FRANCISCO, CA (KGO) -- A deadly stalemate continues Friday in Southeast Asia. The military rulers of Myanmar continue to refuse most foreign aid in the wake of last weekend's cyclone. With hundreds of thousands of people desperate for relief supplies, the critical issue is whether the government will allow many of them to die. Friday night people gathered in San Francisco to bypass the Myanmar Government, and send help straight to the survivors.

"Where do we want the aid? In Burma. When do we want it? Now," chants the crowd.

Outraged that Myanmar's military regime has refused to accept disaster relief, local Burma supporters rallied outside San Francisco's Federal Building Friday night. READ MORE»