Rangoon Charity Clinic to Reopen Despite Harassment
By SAW YAN NAING Saturday, July 18, 2009
The Rangoon based Free Funeral Services Society (FFSS) will officially reopen their clinic for poor and dispossessed people despite obstacles put up by the Burmese authorities.
Well-known actor Kyaw Thu will preside over the opening ceremony in North Dagon Township on July 19.
Kyaw Thu, a leading member of the FFSS, said that the new clinic will provide free medical assistance at birth and post-natal health care, as well as general health care for children and other outpatients. The clinic will treat diseases of the eyes, bones and skin, and will provide dental care.
However, ever since Kyaw Thu and members of the charity organization were involved in the pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks in September 2007, Rangoon-based journalists and magazines have been banned from reporting and printing stories about FFSS activities.
In February this year, after pressure from the authorities, the FFSS had to move its offices from Thingangyun Township to North Dagon Township in the far outskirts of Rangoon. At the new location the electricity supplies were normally cut—this is true for much of Burma—there was no water supply and no telephone lines, according to Kyaw Thu.
“We have to use generators from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., which costs us huge sums for the diesel and gasoline. The water comes from a well,” he said. “We applied to be connected to the water mains and for telephone lines months ago, but we are still waiting for a response.”
The FFSS staff find it very inconvenient traveling to the new location, which is much further away from their homes.
Recently, the welfare group received a warning letter from Rangoon municipal authorities ordering them to reduce the number of hearses kept at Yayway Cemetery and keep them in remote areas on the outskirts of town.
However, the FFSS has ignored the warning for security reasons.
“Even in Yayway, our telephone wires were stolen, so it would be even less safe to park the hearses so far from town, said Kyaw Thu.
The organization has to pay 10,000 kyat (US $9) per month to municipal authorities for hearse parking fees in Yayway Cemetery in Rangoon.
Founded in 2001, The FFSS offers free funeral services for those who cannot afford a funeral. The Rangoon-based organization has 15 hearses, 30 volunteer physicians and 20 employees.
According to Kyaw Thu, the hearses carry about 50 coffins to burial or cremation sites in Rangoon daily.
The organization also provides individual financial support to poor people who want to independently receive x-ray and medical operations in hospitals in Rangoon, said Kyaw Thu.
FFSS is a non-governmental organization, receiving funds from donors inside and outside Burma, including Burmese living in Japan, Taiwan, England and the United States.
It says,” This car will only get to cemetery. If you want to go to hell, go with your own cost.”