People of 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, June 16, 2019


People of 2006

By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.12

(Page 7 of 12)

On the eve of World Aids Orphans’ Day, they organized a fund-raising evening in Rangoon that raised more than $1,600.

Encouraged by their success, they held a similar event in Mandalay. But by now the group had attracted the attention of the authorities, who stepped in and banned a poetry reading. They also briefly detained one of the organizers. Despite (or perhaps because of) the unwelcome intrusion, the event was a resounding success, raising $8,000. Now similar events are planned to raise money for disaster victims and others in need.


Friends with A Red Ribbon

Solidarity in suffering

It was to have been a compassionate event, involving more than 50 HIV/AIDS sufferers and volunteers in a traditional Buddhist merit-making ceremony at a Rangoon monastery in solidarity with victims of the disease.

Organizers chose the red ribbon—the international symbol for HIV/AIDS awareness—as their theme and adopted the name “Friends with a Red Ribbon.” The ceremony found widespread favor and support, and it was hoped to raise money to finance medical treatment for AIDS sufferers.

However, Burma’s ruling junta took a different view of the planned ceremony, possibly provoked by the presence among the organizers and volunteers of young members of the opposition National League for Democracy. Eleven of the organizers were arrested, resulting in the cancellation of the event.

Than Naing, one of the organizers, said: “We are working on this program not to gain a political advantage. This is a humanitarian issue.”

Several international NGOs currently have HIV/AIDS programs in Burma, and all have signed “memorandums of understanding” with the junta. While the content of these MOUs has not been made public, it is known that meeting with the NLD, or cooperating with its members, is not tolerated by the junta. There also is very little support for HIV/AIDS sufferers to organize awareness programs, and social workers are not encouraged to work independently.

—Ko Thet

Free Funeral Service & Byamaso

Tending to the dead

It’s not unusual in Burma for even apolitical associations to face pressure from the military regime. The Free Funeral Services Society, a purely social group in Rangoon, has provided about 40,000 free funeral services in the past five years to thousands of families who can’t afford funeral expenses.

Many more families are in need of free services from the FFSS, which currently provides several dozen funeral services a day.

In the middle of this year, FFSS authorities faced unprecedented pressure to be taken over or controlled by a military-backed civilian group, the Union Solidarity and Development Association.

Fortunately, the authorities—after the initial government effort was disclosed—withdrew their takeover plans. Authorities started putting pressure on the funeral services society after its vice president and secretary-1 attended the 18th anniversary commemoration of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising in August, which was organized by former student leaders.

The FFSS’s founders got their inspiration from Byamaso, a social welfare association in Mandalay that provides free funeral services. Byamaso has also experienced harassment and pressure from authorities. Previously, it had received a large donation of money from wealthy citizens to build a local hospital and buy medical supplies. But local authorities banned it from building the hospital. No reason was given.

—Kyaw Zwa Moe


Ibrahim Gambari

Looking for results

UN Under Secretary-GeneraL for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari was appointed to act as an envoy of the world body chief Kofi Annan following the resignation of the second special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail. Gambari’s first visit to evaluate the situation in Burma took place in May, when he met the junta’s top leaders, including Snr-Gen Than Shwe and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The three-day visit was followed by briefings at the UN Security Council, which agreed to place the Burma issue on its formal agenda, in spite of a strong protest from China.

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