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Monk says time running out for Myanmar farmers

By Nina Muslim, Gulf News, July 23, 2008

Dubai, UAE -- More than 1.5 million villagers face starvation with few days left to plant rice in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated the reclusive state and destroyed crops, said a leading Buddhist monk in Myanmar.

<< Ashin Vayana, the Most Venerable from Shwe Twante Temple in Myanmar.

Cyclone Nargis struck the Southeast Asian country on May 2, killing 84,500 people and left 54,000 missing. The United Nations estimates 2.4 million people were severely affected, most of them in the Irrawaddy delta, known as the rice bowl of the country.

The Most Venerable Ashin Vayana from Shwe Twante Temple in Myanmar, who was in Dubai to collect cash donations for aid relief and reconstruction efforts, told Gulf News people's most pressing need was to plough the fields before the rice-planting season ended on July 31. The UAE is his last stop in a seven-country fund-raising tour.

"We need five to 10 plough machines per village and each machine costs about $1,000 [Dh3,670]. More than 1,000 villages were affected.

"I'll try my best but I won't be able to cover all the villages," he said, adding that his monks and devotees have provided 30 plough machines to 15 villages.

More than two months have passed since the cyclone but the situation on the ground has not improved much, he said. Some villages at the border of the delta and Yangon were in dire straits, while bloated corpses of people and animals still litter many areas in the delta.

Junta dictates

"[Nearly] 3,000 [people] ... still need temporary shelters, food and clothes. But most places have been provided for by the monks.

"It is not because no one wants to help but because they are prohibited from receiving help by the junta and that's ridiculous," he said. So far, he has collected more than Dh7,000 from Myanmar expatriates in the UAE.

Buddhist monks are a leading force in providing relief to cyclone victims after the ruling military junta dragged its heels in accepting international aid.

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Myanmar Cyclone Disaster Fast Facts

Toll as at May 9, 2008

Dead (official)
Missing (official) 41,054
Dead (US estimate) 100,000 plus
Homeless (UN estimate) 1 million- plus

International contributors

$10 million
$3 million
UNITED STATES $3 million
AUSTRALIA $2.8 million
$2 million in aid.
CANADA $2 million
INDONESIA $1 million
SPAIN $775,000
GERMANY $775,000
CHINA $500,000
FRANCE $320,000
GREECE $300,000
JAPAN $267,570
THAILAND $100,000
$2.1 million
SRI LANKA $25,000

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