Ranong (AsiaNews) – Exiles from Myanmar claim the figures of tsunami-related deaths is high and that the Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is withholding the true number of casualties, this according to Michael Geeraisak, a Thai missioner in Ranong, a town just a few kilometres short of the Myanmar border,
Speaking to AsiaNews, Father Michael said his sources and information relayed by Myanmar dissidents put the death toll at 600. Official figures released by the military junta in the capital of Yangoon (formerly known as Rangoon) say that only 90 people died.
“I spoke to some Burmese and they told many people died on the Burmese islands”, Father Michael said. The islands in questions are the Mergui archipelago off Myanmar’s southern coast.
“They couldn’t give me an exact figure, but they said there were many victims”. The number of 600 dead, Father Michael said, came from a local Thai newspaper.
“I am convinced that the Burmese government is hiding the real extent of the disaster. What is sure is that Myanmar has many islands which were right on the tsunami’s pathway”.
Based on information garnered inside the country, political dissidents from Myanmar claim that the death toll ranges from “400 to 600”, that is many more than what the junta in Yangon said.
“The military government has deployed large numbers of troops into the areas and is not allowing people to speak about the damage," said Zin Linn, a spokesman for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organisation for Myanmar dissidents.
What is more, the UN World Food Program said some 30,000 people are in need of care in Myanmar.
The Red Cross is sending a delegation to the Mergui Islands to find out what the situation is.
Ranong’s Stigmatine community, which runs a local parish and school with 1,500 pupils, is helping tsunami victims.
According to Father Michael, there is “a good arrangement between the government, Buddhists and Christians” in distributing aid. “We are providing food, water and clothing to about 200 displaced families,” he said. (LF)