BURMA: Government officers force homeless villagers out of public buildings


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-094-2008
ISSUES: Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers, Right to food, Right to health,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you that hundreds of homeless cyclone refugees seeking shelter and food in Rangoon are reportedly being forced to vacate the places from where they stay. Officials are trying to force people to leave areas where they have gathered on various pretexts.

CASE DETAILS: (According to Yoma3 news, Thailand and various other sources)

On May 5, two days after the devastating Cyclone Nagris, about 600 people from different places had come into South Dagon ward 105, Rangoon. They had sought shelter at a religious hall (Dhamma Hall) and a Primary School No. 25 in the same place. However, days after staying there, it is reported that ward council officials in Rangoon have started forcing them to leave the shelters.

When the villagers protested that they have either lost or not been able to repair their houses; and that there is no food they go back to their villages, they were told they need to leave because the weather is already fine. The local officials ignored people’s protests and said that they were just following the orders of district officers.

Upon learning of the incident, the AHRC promptly informed concerned UN personnel and obtained assurances that they would establish if it is possible to look into the case. However, at time of writing the fate of these hundreds of persons is not known.

There have been reports of similar incidents in Hlaingthayar and other townships of Rangoon but the AHRC also has been unable to confirm the details of these. Council officials are reportedly telling people that is not sanitary for them to stay in large numbers together in public schools and similar buildings but are not making any alternative arrangements or considering the unsanitary conditions of the persons’ destroyed houses and neighbourhoods.


There is a shortage of food and drinking water in Rangoon. The cost of other basic commodities, like candles, has also gone up. For instance bottle of one variety of drinking water has gone from 300 Kyat to 800-1000 Kyat (at least 65 US cents), and drinking water has sold out completely in some places. Although some government vehicles have distributed drinking water it has not been enough.

In Pazundaung Township, a melee took place when the locals saw municipal vehicles delivering water rations only to the houses military and civilian officials. The villagers crowded around upon seeing this and demanded that they too be given water. On May 6, at 7pm the municipal authorities had announced that they would reopen the water pipes, but because the power supply has not been restored yet for pumping station only persons with their own generators may be able to draw water.

Township councils in Rangoon, instead of giving basic commodities free of charge to victims of the storm are selling supplies. Council vehicles are travelling in some areas announcing by loudspeaker that the government’s tax-free markets have been opened. But the products being sold there are actually costly and not free. For instance, the low-grade rice is being sold for 720 Kyat (about 45 US cents) for one viss (1.6kg), vegetable oil for 2240 Kyat for one viss and a sheet of roofing zinc for 4500 Kyat. Fuel for generators is also available but costly.

For links to the work of the AHRC in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis please visit: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/cyclonenargis/

Please send letters to the concerned agencies below urging them look into these allegations of victims of the cyclone being forced out of public buildings and to stop such evictions without clear alternative plans for housing and food. To this end, the authorities must ensure that aid groups and assistance from other governments is allowed into the country at once as a matter of life or death for thousands.

For the sake of the letter, please refer to Burma as Myanmar and Rangoon as Yangon. Please also be informed that the AHRC is writing separate letters to numerous UN and international agencies encouraging their interventions.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear __________,

MYANMAR: Homeless villagers forced to vacate public buildings in South Dagon

I am writing to express my shock and outrage that local authorities in Yangon are allegedly trying to evict cyclone refugees from public buildings without making any alternative arrangements for them.

According to the information that I have received, on 5 May 2008, days after Cyclone Nagris devastated Yangon, at least 600 villagers who had come from different places sought refuge at a religious hall (Dhamma Hall) and a Primary School No. 25 South Dagon ward 105 since their houses had been damaged or destroyed and they no longer have food to eat.

I have learned that the Ward Peace and Development Council officials, instead of making suitable arrangements for them, instead came and told them that they must leave, on the pretext that the weather is already fine. When the persons protested they were told that it is an order from the District Peace and Development Council and that was all.

In fact, similar reports are coming from other parts of Yangon, such as Hlaingthayar Township, where other homeless people had also gathered in schools and have since been told to leave on the pretext that it is not sanitary for them to stay together in large numbers. Only the elderly, sick and infirm have been allowed to remain.

In none of these cases has any regard been had to alternative arrangements. Only, the people have been told to go somewhere else. Yet the fact that these people are sheltering in schools and other public buildings points to the fact that they have nowhere and nothing else and it is a duty of the state to offer alternatives, not simply to tell them that they cannot stay somewhere, which is an utterly reprehensible response to this drastic situation.

Accordingly, I call for the government authorities in Myanmar first to investigate the allegation concerning the group of some 600 persons in South Dagon Township and if finding it to be true see that proper alternatives are established to house and feed these people rather than just putting them onto the street.

I urge that similar arrangements be made in all such instances and that above all else international assistance be allowed freely into Myanmar now. It is completely incomprehensible that a government in the twenty-first century would behave with such neglect and animosity towards its own people as the government of Myanmar has demonstrated in the last week, and I urge that this intolerable condition be ended and aid be allowed to flow freely into Myanmar now.

Yours sincerely,


1. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

2. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

3. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

4. Maj-Gen. Maung Maung Swe
Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement
Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement
Office No. 23
Tel: +95 67- 404 020-22/ 404 337
Fax: +95 67- 404 335

5. U Aung Bwa
Director-General, ASEAN-Myanmar
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tel: +951 229 214; 221 191
Fax: +951 222 950; 221 719
E-mail: dgaseanmofa@myanmar.com.mm

6. Mr. Patrick Vial
Head of Delegation
No. 2 (C) – 5 Dr. Ba Han Lane
Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, 8th Mile
Mayangone Township
Tel.: +951 662 613 / 664 524
Fax: +951 650 117
E-mail: yangon.yan@icrc.org

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-094-2008
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers, Right to food, Right to health,