“The military council may make reinforcements citing relief and reconstruction.” Salai Isaac Khin – Executive member of the ICNCC

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Salai Isaac Khin – Executive member of the ICNCC

23 May 2023

On May 14th, the extremely powerful Cyclone Mocha crossed the Arakan coast near Sittwe, causing extensive damage to Arakan State and the whole country. The cyclone Mocha also hit Chin State on 13 and 14 May with wind speeds of 50 to 70 miles per hour. The Interim Chin National Consultative Council (ICNCC) announced on 17 May that more than 1,700 houses and buildings were destroyed by cyclone Mocha in Chin State.

The Khonumthung Media Group (KMG) interviewed Salai Isaac Khin, executive member of the ICNCC about the damage caused by cyclone Mocha, emergency relief operation and consequences.

Q: How many houses were destroyed by Cyclone Mocha in Chin State? Can you tell me the latest situation?

A: According to the list on 17 May, 1,770 houses were destroyed. However, this is not the final list. We continue to get new lists. Till the morning of 19 May, we continue to get the lists from Paletwa, Matupi, Mindat and Falam. According to the list on 17 May, the number of damaged houses in Mindat Township reached 364. According to the list released by Mindat Township Public Administration Body on 19 May, the total number of damaged houses and religious buildings hit 592. According to the grand total, the cyclone was said to destroy 2,000 houses.

Q: How badly damaged? For instance, are the roofs of houses blown off? Are the whole houses destroyed?

A: The roofs of most houses were blown off. Walls collapsed. The number of collapsed houses is low . However, the houses are not suitable to live in. We need to repair them. It is impossible to live in badly-damaged houses. Another thing is we need to repair the houses for strength as it is a mountainous area.

Q: In Chin State, which townships suffered the most damage?

A: According to the list collected by the ICNCC, the most affected township is Matupi. According to the list obtained as of 17 May, more than 880 houses were destroyed. The second most affected township is Mindat with 592 damaged houses. The third most affected township is Paletwa Township with more than 220 damaged houses. We have not received the lists from some townships. We are still waiting for the list from four townships in the west of Thandaung as we do not get telephone contact. The fourth point is that more than 110 houses were destroyed in Kanpetlet Township. Damage is also reported in Falam and Hakha. The most affected townships are Matupi, Mindat, Paletwa and Kanpetlet.

Q: Are there any deaths in Chin State due to this cyclone?

A: According to the information that we have gathered up to the 19th, there has been no report regarding the death until now. The information we have received is only 80% coverage.

Q: What are the urgent needs of the people affected by the storm right now?

A: The urgent need for people affected by the storm is drinking water. The reason is that when the cyclone hits the mountainous areas, water sources are destroyed. Due to the mixture of creek water and rain water, water is muddy. At present, drinking water is an urgent need. One week later, the people may drink this water. The second is ration. The cyclone destroyed a lot of barns. In Particular, nearly 300 houses and many barns were destroyed in the Zothon area of Matupi Township. Many barns were destroyed in Mindat Township. At the moment, it will not be obvious within one or two days. At least one week later, the people may face a shortage of food ration. Another one is medicine. After that cyclone, medicine is required for health care services of the cyclone-affected people. The next one is shelter. Roofs of many houses were blown off. So, rain-proof sheets are essential as the rainy season is going to set in soon. The last thing is that due to the cyclone, many village-to-village roads were destroyed. Due to the mountainous area, the mountains collapsed. According to the photos we got, the roads are blocked due to the collapse of mountains. In Particular, we need to repair the village-to-village roads in order to carry rations in the coming one or two weeks. We urgently need drinking water, rations, medicine, shelters and money and machinery required to repair village-to-village roads.

Q: How do you prepare for relief work?

A: Before the cyclone, the ICNCC and the National Unity Government (NUG) cooperated and provided funds for the townships. But not too much. We provided cash assistance of 2.5-3 million MMK before the cyclone. The funds are mainly aimed to use on the transportation and emergency relief plan. Currently, as for relief work, the Mocha response committees formed by their respective townships are carrying out their work. We are trying to get data and scrutinize damage and necessary assistance using these data. When we get all the data, we will continue working on the assistance process.

Q: What difficulties do you face in the current assistance process?

A: The difficulty is that information is not available in time. Transportation is difficult. Phone lines have been cut off since the coup. For instance, phone lines and the internet have been cut off in Paletwa Township since before the coup. After the coup, phone lines and the internet were cut off in most townships, especially in rural areas. Even before the storm hit Chin State, we had to work very hard in sharing the warnings. Now we have a lot of difficulties in connecting those areas. We cannot go to the villages immediately. We don’t get real-time information about their needs. No.1 is communication. No.2 is security. We cannot say that there is no ground offensive or airstrike by the military council. These days, we have seen the military council’s airstrike in Mindat Township. According to the reports, the military council conducted the airstrike in Mindat Township on 13 May.

We cannot say that there was no ground offensive or airstrike by the military council during this period. We are not in a position to do relief work if there is no security. No.3 is how can we deliver necessary materials, rations and shelters to the required areas in a safe and timely manner. We know how to do it. However, from where we can get money, rations and shelters and how we can deliver them is the challenge. In doing so, the funds go to the most-affected Arakan State. I have heard that the National Unity Government (NUG) has allocated a budget of one million USD, and the United States is providing an initial $200,000 to supplement ongoing relief activities for cyclone-affected people in Chin and Arakan States. We need to think about how to channel these funds and how to deliver them in time. In particular, the Chin organizations in other countries are required to help it. It will be difficult for us to carry out these relief operations successfully if we don’t have funds.

Q: What difficulties and challenges may there be in rehabilitation?

A: As for rehabilitation, resources and finance may become a big challenge. Another thing is that security is going to be the biggest challenge at a time when the revolutionary resistance war is being waged. We may face the military council’s threats and harmful behaviours when we do rehabilitation works and carry construction materials. At the same time, the military council may carry out works according to the need. Even now, the military council assigned duties to its military officers to supervise the rehabilitation in Paletwa, Matupi, Hakha and Tedim Townships, which were declared as the disaster-hit area. The military council may enter the areas citing relief and rehabilitation and make reinforcement. If the UN agencies and INGOs are forced to come in, then the military may also come in to dominate the area. If there is a confrontation between the local defense forces and the military council, the military council may accuse the PDFs of blocking humanitarian aid and committing violence. To sum up, the rehabilitation period will be more challenging. It is a big challenge for the revolutionary forces. The military council may trick the public with money.

Q: Do you have anything to add?

A: Arakan State was the most affected by the cyclone Mocha. We are very saddened by the damage caused in Arakan State and share the same grief with them. The cyclone destroyed nearly 2,000 houses. However, that number is relatively low compared with damage in Arakan State. I sympathize with ethnic brothers who are experiencing a lot of loss in Arakan State. I would like to call on the international community to help us. At the same time, we were quite shocked to hear the news that over 400 Rohingya people were killed in Arakan State. We feel sad. The military council said around six people were killed by the cyclone. Military council leaders said that it was the least affected. But on the real ground, excluding the number of the Rohingya people killed in the cyclone, the damage is quite high. We have heard the news that 12 people were killed in a village in Rathedaung Township in the northern Arakan State. The death toll from cyclone Mocha is low compared to the cyclone Nargis. However, I was quite shocked by the news about the deaths of at least 400 Rohingya people. Many questions have arisen. We need to think about whether the military council really ignores Rohingya people? The cyclone also hit Chin State. I would like to call on all people to help Chin State. We also need to collectively help Arakan State which suffered the most. We are Christians, let us pray. With God’s blessing, I would like to encourage everyone to work hard so that both Chin State and Rakhine State can smile again.

Sent by KMG

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