May 17, 2008 / 5:41 AM / 11 years ago

Worried Myanmar migrants chip in aid from Thailand

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Despite struggling to make ends meet in Thailand, migrant workers from Myanmar are raising cash for their cyclone-hit compatriots, with many still uncertain of the fate of friends and family two weeks after the disaster.

From political dissidents to Buddhist monks, informal networks of the estimated 2 million Myanmar migrants working around Thailand are raising cash and relief supplies to be distributed by Buddhist temples or small private aid groups.

After an appeal by a Buddhist monk, food, medicine and money has been coming in from across Thailand to a makeshift warehouse at a Christian centre in Bangkok.

“We are all suffering. Everybody can try to get something together to help our people,” said Zaw Tika, a 31 year-old-monk who has been studying in Bangkok for a year.

The group has raised nearly 150,000 baht ($4,700) but is still working out how to get a shipment into Yangon and then on to those most in need in the storm-ravaged Irrawaddy delta, where an estimated 2.5 million people are clinging to survival.

“We are deciding how we can transfer these goods to Burma. We want to send it directly to the victims,” he said.

Despite worries about the aid falling into the hands of the former Burma’s reviled military, some in the northern Thai border town of Mae Sot said they were willing to join a push by the provincial Thai government to hand over aid to authorities on the other side of the border.

“I gave 50 baht ($1.55) in a Thai donation run, but I don’t know if the money the Thais passed on to local Myanmar officials will reach the victims,” said Cho Cho, a 30-year-old worker at a Mae Sot chopstick factory.

The generals’ sluggish provision of relief for the victims, as well as their failure to broadcast major storm warnings, has also left many migrants angry and worried about their relatives, many of whom they are still struggling to contact.

“They didn’t tell us the cyclone was coming. After it hit us, they were very slow in helping us,” said Moe Moe, a 40-year-old laborer who lost a son, wife, mother and 17 other relatives in the cyclone.

“I am devastated and mad at the government.”

(Additional reporting by Somjit Rungjumratrussamee in Mae Sot;

Editing by Ed Cropley)

For more stories on Myanmar cyclone follow the link to Reuters AlertNet http://www.alertnet.org

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