Interview with Burmese famous comedian Zaganar

02 June 2008

This is the interview of Irrawaddy Online Magazine and Myanmar famous comedian” Zaganar

He was jailed many times in Myanmar prison of his political jokes and tortured by military government. Once he lost all his teeth because he was hit in the prison. Now he and some movie stars are helping cyclone refugees in delta area despite of military government’s disturbance. He is very true to Burma.


Q: Ok, let’s talk about from starting until now (31-5-08) what is going on there?

A: We are on the doing since May 7 till this morning. We‘ve been everywhere and every places expect of Ngapudaw, but our men have already reached there. And then we’ve been to other 42 villages where no one ever been there, which is in the Daedayae’ region, a group of three big villages of paddy warehouses and purchasing deports. And then we’ve been another group of three villages in Bogalay region, 42 villages. They haven’t get any aids,not only government’s but also UN’s and NGO’s.

Q: In there what are the things exactly you found out, how many peoples are died, what they’re needing,how big is the destroyed.

A:I can give you an example, there are a thousand homes in Mangae gyi region,700 homes are all disappeared,only about 300 homes, some have floor and some have pillers,221 died and more than 300 are still missing.

Until 22nd May, there are a lot of dead bodies in the creeks, the villagers got 7cans(about 7 cooking cups of rice given by government and a small packet of dried instant noodle, nothing more than that, that was 20 days after cyclone.

At 28th May, we went to the villages named Tin maung chaung, Kyain suu, Htate chaung gyi, Kan suu, Shwe bo suu from the Bogalay. Everyone there haven’t got any aids, nobody been there yet, no cloths on, all children are nicked.

There are altogether 542 families …they‘ve lose their houses .They stay at a place of small pagoda, named Ah Kyut Ah loot. This pagoda is broken by half. They all sleep there squeezed. There‘s no UN, no NGO, no aids. We’re the very first group, we gave them food and others as much as we could. The worse is they don’t have drinking water. The wells are full of bodies. So that they collect the raining water and drink. So we brought 10000 water bottles (20 lits per bottle)

Q: Haven’t they got the aids from government, given by international groups yet?

A: There are only at Lutpoottar and Bogalay, they have a few tents ,4 or 5 per tent , they can eat rice, but very a few tents .Those who are at villages got nothing.

Q: UN said, there are 25% of aids reached there. Is that right?

A: That’s right, definitely. The aids are reached to the villages a little only. There are still islands and villages. Nobody come and bring to a certain places, no transportation, only by small boat. There are lot survivors there.

I want to tell you a sad story. She is very old lady of 11 family members including her. All the other 10 died in cyclone, she is alone now. But she didn’t know they all gone. She even didn’t recognized herself. There are a lot people like that. They are going to be insane, this is a fishing village.

Q: How many more people like that and what are their condition overall?

A: There are three types of peoples; one is very angry and sensitive. They won’t listen anything , all the time they are angry and been rough. The second is kind of sober. They are crying all the time. And the next is a kind of mute , no talk, no movement.

We went and gave rice 10kg per person, beans, blanket and mosquito nets to everybody. They didn’t even take, they have no interested. They said they want to die.

Q: Did you ever see any government’s aids there?

A: No…not at all….just 7 cups of rice and a packet of Mama dried noodles as I said, that was 28th May, until we arrived there.

Q: How do you bring the things there? By small boats?
A: yeah…by small boats.

Q:Just like your group, as other self motivated donor, how much they can do within limitation?

A: At first we forced to let us go in to the places. We faced a bit difficulties against them, for example..They (authorities) asked me, “why you go without permission…you must report us…blur.. blur…”So we talked to them nicely and they said that “we don’t care if you’re in danger”. So I said “we don’t care even we die”
Something like that..

Later after an order out by National Disaster Prevention group, they don’t interfered so much then. “It is good to go the places of difficult transportation and self motivated group can donate as they wish “in that order.

After that order, the traders of the Chinatown and the gold smiths of the Mogol Street are doing some helps out. So the refugees can get more. If they can not go to the far places, we go for them. For example... Bogalay, the donors leave the things at city...We all (film stars) bring t the things o the villages. We have altogether 420 peoples in our groups. We separated to the small groups and go to the different places.

Q: that day in the New light of Myanmar newspaper, they said people can eat frogs and fishes and the delta in the next year will be full of golden paddy fields, It is that so?

A: Ha ..ha…the dream is so good…hee hee..i don’t know weather they can find frogs or fishes, we name the Irrawaddy river and Bogalay river water color is Nargis color, you know why?...the color is whitsh gray….there are many bodies of human, cows and buffalos …some more we call it Nargis flavor…extremely bad….after we come back..this smell follow us .No one can stand it…we all vomit…So who can find the frogs and fishes…better eat the bodies….

Q: how about the bodies? Haven’t they buried them?

A: They even never collected…still in the river. We come back from Bogalay at 28th May. We went to 5-villages. We even could not take photos and videos because too many bodies, at least 40 bodies after the villagers buried more than one thousand bodies. Some donors bring 80 pieces of burning machines and burned. They are from AZG and Christian Missionaries.

Q: How about the Karen tribes who stayed there? Are they most populated?
A: There are many Karen villages in Bogalay and Daydayae distrait, most of them are Christians, and I like them. When we arrived there they come and help us. They have been bringing back to Yangon and do the counseling for them. They will lead reconstructing of the villages.
Firstly they’ve got the construction materials and foods; secondly, today they were giving the vegetable seeds such as watercress, amaranth and Roselle, and then fertilizers which can be used at any type of soil. And they were taught how to use it.

Q: Do you think they can restart the cultivation?

A: Rice cannot…..only some kind of vegetables. They start today …the villagers were taught by the experts.

Q: I heard that they never get aids because they are Karen tribes, is that so?
A: Not only Karen but also Burmese.., nobody got aids. There are only 15 days left to do cultivation paddy fields .Now we discuss with big business companies and Thai technicians to buy the cultivating machines, called “golden buffalo” .It can be finished an acre within half day by using this machine.One machine costs 1.4 millions kyats(1000 US $).We start from ‘kyunn nyo gyi’ township as main region. There are 5514 peoples in this region, 3200 men are able to work .We tried to repair the soil with the help of a Thai technician. Now we can start to cultivate if we got the 18 machines. We have only 10, we still need 8 more machines.

Q: We heard that the health and rescue teams from the neibourhood countries are coming to this area. Did they arrived?

A: No I didn’t see any team, only a Thai woman to research the soil comes together with us. Yesterday she went back to Thai, and she would be right back on Saturday. We will know whether we can cultivate within 15 days or not.

Q: Is it any aids from the northern and upper Burma?

A: Yeah , lately many, for example many big container trucks from ‘Nammatee,Myitkyeenar,Lasho’ came with 200 tanks of cooking oils .They came together with Christian missionaries , altogether 10 container trucks, they are Shan tribes, we just met with them.

Q: how about Yangon?

A: we have to go there as well. This morning we went to the ‘Dala’,’Kunchan gone’,and ‘Nyaung wai ‘which is next river bank to ‘Kyee myin dai’.Ther are not as desperate as Delta. But they lost their homes. We help them too. They still ok (sound mind.)

Q: What you want to talk about foreign groups?

A: There are still many things which are beyond our control .The persons from foreign countries can help lot things such as to rebuild the destroyed villages as soon as possible. For example, at the time of Tsunami, the technicians are arrived and build the houses .We can’t afford it. We are not rich. We also heard that Bill Gate came out with some helps, we have no idea where the aids are going ended?

It won’t cost to build a small house. We hope the internationals come and build for the villages.

We dissatisfied UN. They can’t do anything for us. There are no UN people go to the villages which we’ve gone. They care about the authorities, I don’t like them. To save the poor people, do you need to care them? They even can pass the aids to the people who were going there. There are 4 or 5 groups like us. They just send the things to the some governmental offices. For what?

Q: how about people are starting begging?

A:Off course they are hungry. Who can take it? Don’t you think so? They are really starving.

Q: US said they want to help with some small boats which can go both in water and on the ground .This kind of boats are really can go far. But now almost one month, do you think it still need?

A: Definitely need. We gave them the radios to listen to what the world said; they are hoping and happy to wait for the aids such as ships from American, France and England. Now their hopes are all gone already, they are very very sorrow. They asked me ‘don’t they really come? They don’t really care us? How can we wait for our last minute of life? All the grannies and children are cried.

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