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Myanmar Cyclone Victims Face Continued Hardships

June 6, 2008 at 6:25 PM EST
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TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, more than a month after Cyclone Nargis hit, the struggle to survive in Myanmar, also known as Burma. Inigo Gilmore of Independent Television News reports from Mae Sot, Thailand, on the border with Myanmar.

INIGO GILMORE, ITN’s Channel 4 News Correspondent: This is a main crossing point from Burma into Thailand. And people are prepared to do almost anything to get across.

For refugees from the delta, it’s a far-flung sanctuary, but such as their desperation, many are prepared to trek several days to get here to seek help. And they’re some of the luckier ones.

This couple and their young children traveled four days to get here from a devastated town of Bogalae. They were forced to bribe soldiers to get past the gridlock of checkpoints.

They told Channel 4 News they had to compete in a humiliating daily lucky draw just to get their hands on a single tin of food. This is aid by lottery.

BURMESE REFUGEE (through translator): One day we got nothing, so we went to the authorities and demanded to get some food. Our children were crying. They said, “Today there’s nothing. Just come back again tomorrow for the lucky draw.”

INIGO GILMORE: Tragically, they are some of the lucky few. On the other side of Mae Sot, we met another man from the Bogalae area, a businessman who is politically active. He, too, witnessed how the government deliberately blocked monks from delivering aid to the victims in his area.

BURMESE REFUGEE (through translator): A road to the villages in our area that was being used by the monks to deliver aid was blocked when a government truck came and dumped a huge pile of rubbish. A group of us went to remove that rubbish so that the aid could still get to the villages. What the government did was a cruel act.

INIGO GILMORE: He also confirmed reports that soldiers were stealing relief materials at gunpoint and that refugees were being forcibly relocated against their will.

These firsthand testimonies challenge the now-familiar picture that is presented over and over on Burma’s surreal state television. In this bizarre scene, the refugees line up to thank the regime for their benevolent assistance, their faces frozen in fear, under the watchful eye of the fully armed guards.

Refugees in Mae Sot told us many of these displays are a fiction, set up especially for the cameras.

In these images, the camera captures a very different reality in the Bogalae area. Despite the fanfare surrounding Ban Ki-moon’s recent visit, the access to international aid the U.N. chief was promised by the generals has never materialized.