Friday, July 16, 2010

Golden Land of Arakan


Rakhine people

formerly Arakanese), is a nationality of Myanmar, and form the majority along the coastal region of present day Rakhine State or Arakan State. They possibly constitute 4% or more of Myanmar's total population but no accurate census figures exist. Rakhine people also live in the southeastern parts of Bangladesh, especially in Chittagong and Barisal Divisions. A group of Arakanese descendants, living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh at least since the 16th century, are known as the Marma people. These Arakanese descendants have been living in that area since the Arakanese kingdom's control of the Chittagong region.

Arakanese descendants spread as far north as Tripura state in India, where their presence dates back to the ascent of the Arakanese kingdom when Tripura was ruled by Arakanese kings. In northeast India, these Arakanese people are referred to as the Mog, while in Bengali, the Marma (the ethnic Arakanese descendants in Bangladesh) and other Arakanese people are referred to as the Magh people.

According to the Rakhine Chronicles, the name Rakhine or Rakhine was originated from Pali word Rakhapura meaning the land of the people of Rakshasa (Rakshasa > Rakha > Rakhine) who were titled this name in honour of preservation on their national heritage (a myo) and ethics or morality (sila). The word Rakhine means, "one who keeps his own race."

The Rakhine are predominantly Theravada Buddhists and are one of the four main Buddhist ethnic groups of Myanmar (the others being the Bamar, Shan and Mon). They claim to be one of the first groups to become followers of the Buddha in Southeast Asia. The Rakhine culture is similar to the dominant Burmese culture but with more Indian influence, likely due to its geographical isolation from the Burmese mainland divided by the Rakhine Roma and closer proximity to South Asia. Traces of Indian influence remain in many aspects of Rakhine culture, including its literature, music, and cuisine.

The Rakhine speak Arakanese language which is an archaic form of Burmese. Still generally mutually intelligible with standard Burmese, Arakanese retains the /r/ sound, which is now a /j/ sound in Burmese. Modern Arakanese script, aside from few vocabulary differences, is essentially the same as standard Burmese script. (The northern Brahmi-based Rakhawunna script found in stone inscriptions in the Vesali (Wethali) era is no longer in use.

The people of Rakhine claim a history that began in 3325 BC and archaeological evidence has been found for later period of the beginning of the 1st century AD after the excavations of the Dhanyawadi city . According to the chronicles, the first independent Rakhine (Arakanese) kingdom was established in 3325 BC by King Marayu. The name of the kingdom “Dhanyawadi” means the land "blessed with abundant grain". Buddhism was introduced into Rakhine during the lifetime of Buddha himself. According to Rakhine Chronicles, Buddha in his lifetime visited the city of Dhanyawadi (Grain Blessed) in 554 BC The Rakhine king Sandar Surya (Sun Moon) requested Buddha to leave the image of Himself. After casting the Great Image Mahamuni, (Great Sage) Buddha breathed upon it which resembled the exact likeness of the Blessed One.

Ancient Dhanyawadi, lies west of the mountain ridge between the Kaladan and Le-mro rivers. Its city walls were made of brick, and form an irregular circle with a perimeter of about 9.6 km, enclosing an area of about 4.42 square km. Beyond the walls, the remains of a wide moat, now silted over and covered by paddy fields, are still visible in places. The remains of brick fortifications can be seen along the hilly ridge which provided protection from the west. Within the city, a similar wall and moat enclose the palace site, which has an area of 0.26 square km, and another wall surrounds the palace itself. From aerial photographs we can discern Dhanyawad I's irrigation channels and storage tanks, centered at the palace site.

The 243 Rakhine kings ruled Arakan for a long period of 5108 years. The oldest artefact, stone image of Fat Monk inscribed "Saccakaparibajaka Jina" in Brahmi inscription comes to the date of first century AD.

An ancient stone inscription in Nagari character was discovered by renowned Archaeologist Dr. Forchhammer. Known as Salagiri, this hill was where the great teacher came to Rakhine some two thousand five hundred years ago. Somewhere from eastern part of this hill, a stone image in Dhamma-cakra-mudra now kept in Mrauk-U museum, was found earlier in 1923. This relief sculpture found on the Salagiri Hill represents Buddha preaching King Chandra Suriya belongs to 4th century AD; five more red sandstone slabs with the carving were found close by the south of this Salagiri Hill in 1986. They are the same type as the single slab found earlier in 1923. These carving slabs of Bhumispara-mudra, Kararuna-mudra, Dhammacakra-mudara, and Mmahaparinibbana-mudra represent the life of Buddha.

These sculptures provide earliest evident about the advent of Buddhism into Rakhine; during the life time of the Buddha and these discoveries were therefore assumed as the figures of King Chandra Suriya of Dyanawadi, who dedicated the Great Maha Muni Image. These archaeological findings have been studied by eminent scholars and conclusion is that the Maha Muni was made during the king Sanda Suriya era.

The founder of Vesali city, King Dvan Chandra carved Vesali Paragri Buddha-image in 327 A.D and set a dedicatory inscription in Pali verse

ye dhamma hetuppabuava / Tathagato aha / tesan ca yo niyodho / evamvadi Mahasamano.

That Buddha-image is carved out by a single block and the earliest image of Vesali.

The meaning of Ye Dhamma verse is as follow.

Of these dhammas which arise from causes / The Tathagata has declared causes / Lord Buddha preached about the causes / And the effects gained by the causes / And that which is the ceasing of them, Nirawda Thitesa / This the great ascetic declares.

The verse, which is considered as the essence of Theravada spirit, bears testimony to the fact that Buddhism flourished to an utmost degree in Vesali. The relationship of Vesali with foreign countries especially Ceylon would be established for Buddhism.

The stone inscriptions are of Sanskrit, Pali, Rakhine, Pyu languages. Anandachandra Inscriptions date back to 729 AD originally from Vesali now preserved at Shitethaung indicates adequate evidence for the earliest foundation of Buddhism. Dr. E. H. Johnston's analysis reveals a list of kings which he considered reliable beginning from Chandra dynasty. The western face inscription has 72 lines of text recorded in 51 verses describing the Anandachandra's ancestral rulers. Each face recorded the name and ruling period of each king who were believed to have ruled over the land before Anandachandra. Archaeology has shown that the establishment of so many stone pagodas and inscriptions which have been totally neglected for centuries in different part of Rakhine speak of popular favored by Buddhism.

The cubic stone inscriptions record the peace making between the governor of Thandaway (Sandoway) Mong Khari (1433-1459) and Razadhiraj the Mon Emperor in Rakhine inscription. This was found from a garrison hill at the oldest site of Parein. A stone slab with the alleged figure of the Buddha preaching, King Chandra Suriya bore testimony to the Salagiri tradition, depicting of the advent of the Teacher to Dyanyawaddy.

The crowing event in the history of Rakhine was the Convention of the Buddhist Council at the top of golden hill of Vesali under the royal patronage of King Dhammawizaya in 638 AD through joint effort of two countries, Rakhine and Ceylon. This momentous triumph of the great council was participated by one thousand monks from Ceylon and one thousand monks from Rakhine kingdom. As a fitting celebration of the occasion, the lavish construction of pagodas, statues and monasteries were undertaken for the purpose of inscribing the Tripitaka. After Vesali, Pyinsa was found by Lemro dynasty in 818 AD; the great king of dynasty (AD 818-1430) was King Mim-Yin-Phru, who turned his attention towards the development of Buddhism, and in 847 AD he convened the second Buddhist council in Rakhine attended by 800 Arahants. Rakhine chronicles report that therein the Tripitaka and Atthakatha were inscribed on the golden plate and enshrined. Never has there been impediment in the practice of Theravada Buddhist faith since it has introduced in Rakhine. The copious findings of inscription Ye Dhamma verse were practical evidence that Theravada was dominant faith if epigraphic and archaeological sources were to be believed. The Royal patronage has always been significant factor contribution to stability and progress of the religion in Rakhine.

Mrauk-U, the last kingdom of independent Arakan founded by King Mong Saw Mon in 1430, has become the principle seat of Buddhism, has reaching at zenith of the golden age. Mrauk-U was divided into three periods: the earliest period (1430-1530), the middle period (1531-1638), and the last period (1638-1784). In Arakan antiquities at the Mrauk-U seems to give rational evidence as to where Buddhism was settled down. The golden days of Mrauk U city, those of 16th and 17th centuries, were contemporary to the days of Tudor kings, the Moghuls, the Ayuthiya kings and Ava (Inwa), Taungoo and Hanthawaddy kings of Myanmar. Mrauk U was cosmopolitan city, fortified by a 30-kilometer long fortification and an intricate net of moats and canals. At the centre of the city was the Royal Place, looming high over the surrounding area like an Asian Acropolis. Waterways formed by canals and creeks earned the fame of distinct resemblance to Venice. Mrauk U offers some of the richest archaeological sites in South-East Asia. These include stone inscriptions, Buddha images, the Buddha's foot-prints and the great pagoda itself which, stripped its later-constructed top, would be of the same design as the Gupta style of ancient India. In the city of golden Mrauk-U there are scattering innumerable temples and pagodas which preserved as places, there by exerting a great influence on spiritual life of the people.

Arakanese chronicle records that more than six million shrines and pagodas flourished in Mrauk-U. In fact, they formed the pride of golden Mrauk-U. Dr. Forchhammer in his book entitled "Arakan", "in durability, architectural skill, and ornamentation the Mrauk-U temples far surpass those on the banks of Arrawaddy". Buddhist arts both in the field of architecture and Buddha-image constructions are on the same line of flourishing. An illustrative example of this fact can be seen in the temple of Chitthaung pagoda and colossal Dukekanthein temple. Gold and silver coins serve as the priceless heritage of the Mrauk-U period. The tradition of coin-making was handed down from the Vesali kings who started minting coins around the fifth century. The coins so far found are of one denomination only. Inscribed on the coins are the title of the ruling king and his year of coronation; coins before 1638 had Rakhine inscriptions on one side and Persian and Nagari inscriptions on the other. The inclusion of the foreign inscriptions was meant for the easy acceptance by the neighboring countries and the Arab traders. Twenty-three types of silver coins and three types of gold coins have so far been found. All the kings who ascended the throne issued coins. City walls, gates, settlements, monastery sites, fortresses, garrisons and moats are the other priceless heritages left to the safe keeping of today's Rakhine people. Stone rubbles of proud mansions of that period are also priceless reminders of Rakhine glory. It is no wonder that Mrauk U is properly known as the "Land of Pagodas" and Europeans remarked Mrauk U as "The Golden City". The Rakhine of those days were proud of Mrauk U. They were entirely satisfied to be the inhabitants of Mrauk U. The history shows what happened in the city in early times.

The country had been invaded several times, by the Mongols, Mon, Bamar and Portuguese and finally the Bamar in 1784 when the armies led by the Crown Prince, son of King Bodawpaya, of the Konbaung dynasty of Burma marched across the western Yoma and annexed Rakhine. The religious relics of the kingdom were stolen from Rakhine, most notably the Mahamuni Buddha image, and taken into central Burma where they remain today. Moreover, the Burman invaders destroyed many valuable creations of Arakan including royal palace, city gates, the clock-tower, the booming drum that was believed to have a mystical effect on the Burman dynasties and many other edifices of splendour. The industries and business centres were also destroyed by them. The Ancient Chronicles, the Tripitaka and books were carried away by them with an intention of eradicating of national feeling of the Arakanese people, and many others were destroyed. The Arakanese books on literature, arts, traditional medicines, warfare, metallurgy, architecture , shipbuilding , which were carried away by the Burman invaders, are estimated to be about the height of two toddy palms. During their invasion, the Burman invaders’ forces committed a crime against humanity with a genocide killing about 236,000 Arakanese civilians including 10,000 infants of cradle age. They killed the infants mercilessly with the slogan of “while cutting down the stalk of a reed, its stump should not be left out”. A mass of 100,000 skilled workers, artisans, intellectuals and Buddhist monks were arrested and taken across the Arakan mountain ranges, and they all were initiated into slavery and servitude at pagodas and temples of pagan, Sagaing and Mandalay. The people of Rakhine resisted the conquest of the kingdom for decades after. Fighting with the Rakhine resistance, initially led by Nga Than Dè and finally by Chin Byan in border areas, created problems between British India and Burma. The year 1826 saw the defeat of the Bamar in the First Anglo-Burmese War and Rakhine was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Yandabo. Sittwe (Akyab) was then designated the new capital of Rakhine. In 1852, Rakhine was merged into Lower Burma as a territorial division.

Rakhine was the center of multiple insurgencies which fought against British rule, notably led by the monks U Ottama and U Seinda.

During the Second World War, Rakhine was given autonomy under the Japanese occupation and was even granted its own army known as the Arakan Defence Force. The Arakan Defence Force went over to the allies and turned against the Japanese in early 1945.

In 1948, Rakhine became a division within the Union of Burma. Shortly after, violence broke out along religious lines between Buddhists and Muslims. Later there were calls for secession by the Rakhine, but such attempts were subdued. In 1974, the Ne Win government's new constitution granted Rakhine Division "state" status but the gesture was largely seen as meaningless since the military junta held all power in the country and in Rakhine. In 1989, the name of Arakan State was changed to "Rakhine" by the military junta.

The Burma-North Korea Axis


This is a sensitive moment in relations between the United States and the world’s most corrupt regime: the military junta that has plundered Burma for decades as if it were a private fiefdom.

The regime in Burma has a history of deceiving American officials. I know; before defecting to the United States in 2005, I was a senior intelligence officer for the war office in Burma. I was also the deputy chief of mission at Burma’s embassy in Washington.

In the autumn of 2003, a senior staff member for a U.S. senator came twice to our embassy in Washington to call on Ambassador U Lin Myaing and me. At about the same time, officials from the U.S. State Department and the National Security Council also met in New York with U Tin Win, from the office of Burma’s prime minister, and Colonel Hla Min, the government’s spokesman.

The American officials were checking reports that Burma had secretly renewed ties with North Korea — one of the three pillars of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.”

Burma had severed ties with North Korea in 1983, after North Korean operatives attempted to assassinate South Korea’s president, Chun Doo Hwan, during a state visit to Rangoon. Chun was unhurt, but 17 senior South Korean officials — including the deputy prime minister and the foreign and commerce ministers — were killed.

The head of Burma’s junta, Senior General Than Shwe, instructed us to lie to the Americans. We did. We blamed Burma’s political opposition for the “rumors” that Rangoon had renewed ties with Pyongyang. The Americans wanted proof. Than Shwe then ordered Foreign Minister U Win Aung to send a letter denying the reports to Secretary of State Colin Powell. The British government knew the truth. London’s ambassador to Rangoon rightfully called U Win Aung a liar.

Why did Burma renew ties with North Korea? Regime preservation.

In the aftermath of the 1988 nationwide uprising in Burma, many foreign joint ventures for the production of conventional weapons were cancelled. Than Shwe began the secret re-engagement with North Korea in 1992, soon after he took control of Burma’s ruling clique.

He argued that Burma faced potential attack from the United States and India, which at the time was a champion of Burma’s democracy movement. He wanted a bigger army. He wanted more modern weapons. He even wanted nuclear arms. He cared not at all for the poverty of Burma’s people.

Than Shwe secretly made contact with Pyongyang. Posing as South Korean businessmen, North Korean weapons experts began arriving in Burma. I remember these visitors. They were given special treatment at the Rangoon airport. With a huge revenue bonanza from sales of natural gas to Thailand, Burma was soon able to pay the North Koreans cash for missile technology.

The generals thought that they could also obtain nuclear warheads and that, once these warheads were mounted on the missiles, the United States and other powerful countries would not dare to attack Burma and have much less leverage on the junta.

Than Shwe hid these links with North Korea as long as he could from Japan and South Korea, because he was working to lure Japanese and South Korean companies to invest more in efforts to plunder Burma’s natural resources. By 2006, the junta’s generals felt either desperate or confident enough to publicly resume diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Burma has worked for almost a decade to expand its production of missiles and chemical warheads. General Tin Aye — chairman of the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, the military’s business arm — is the top manager of ordinance production and main liaison with North Korea.

According to a secret report leaked last year, the regime’s No. 3 man, General Shwe Mann, also made a secret visit to Pyongyang in November 2008. He signed an agreement for military cooperation that would bring help from North Korea for constructing tunnels and caves for hiding missiles, aircraft, even ships.

That this information was leaked by Burmese military officials working on such sensitive activities shows both the degree of Than Shwe’s military megalomania and the existence of opposition within the regime itself.

The words “pragmatic engagement” should not become synonymous with any weakening of Washington’s firm opposition to Burma’s rulers.

The United States and other nations must continue to question the legitimacy of Than Shwe and the regime. They should not believe his promises to hold free and fair elections this year.

Only coordinated pressure from around the globe will be effective in dealing with this master of deceit.

Aung Lynn Htut is a former senior intelligence officer in Burma’s Ministry of Defense. He is working on his memoirs.

9th Waso Robe Ceremony in New York


The 9th Waso Robe ceremony, one of holy ceremony for Buddhism in New York, will be held in New York in July 25, 2010 by the following agendas.

Date: July 25, 2010 Sunday
Time: 10:00 am - 2:00pm(EST)
Place: P.S 222 Q
86-15 37th Avenue Jackson Heights NY 11372

Admission is Free for All attendees and Rakhine Traditional 'Mont` de' will be served for every one. The ceremony is always lead by Buddhist Missionary Society (B M S)of New York and you may donate any kinds of donation to the society.
B M S was established by Dr. Ashin Nayaka and some Rakhine nationals of the United States. As a non-profit organization, you may donate any money to that society.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

16th Rakhine Water Festival in New York


The 16th Rakhine Water festival, Burmese New Year Ceremony will be held in 18th July 2010 in New York City. It will be held by Thingyan Association of New York and this is one famous festival of the Burmese Community of the United States.

The traditional dancing, dancing, the elderly respect for Rakhine traditional will be included in that ceremony. The admission is Free for ALL.

You may taste very different Burmese traditional snacks, light foods and some meals in that party. The Water festival is huge ceremony for all Burmese nationalities especially for Buddhist religious.

The Watering ceremony is focused on new year , new ideas and all kinds of excuses and human being for all Buddhism and it has been established by Lord Buddha Ghaudama.

Friday, May 9, 2008



Myanmar: Cooperate with international community to ensure appropriate aid for victims

Following the impact of Cyclone Nargis on Myanmar, which killed tens of thousands of people and displaced around a million more, Amnesty International is calling urgently on the government to open its borders to relief workers and ensure aid is provided on the basis of need without discrimination. Government red tape in providing visas is costing lives, while some donors are delaying aid in the fear that it will be siphoned off to the army,said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International Myanmar researcher. The government should now provide access and assurances to international relief workers. Amnesty International calls on the Government of Myanmar to ease visa restrictions and customs procedures that have hampered access by international relief workers over the past few days and slowed the delivery of desperately needed aid. While some international aid has arrived in Yangon (Rangoon), the government has not yet mobilized the tremendous logistical effort necessary to provide assistance to the hardest hit populations. Amnesty International recognizes that at this point the situation in southern Myanmar is primarily a humanitarian and rehabilitation crisis.

Experience after other natural disasters of this scale, for instance the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, has proven that protecting human rights is essential for effective relief and a sustainable recovery. Amnesty International therefore calls on the government of Myanmar to cooperate closely with international relief efforts and establish clear and transparent mechanisms for delivering aid. The government should provide aid according to need, without discrimination based on race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status of recipients.

In post-disaster situations, women are often particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, and frequently receive less aid. The Myanmar government must also ensure that the nearly one million people believed to have been displaced by the cyclone urgently receive adequate rehabilitation and assistance, including essential shelter, food, water and health care. Given the government's record of forcibly relocating its own citizens, Amnesty International calls on the government to avoid using excessive force against understandably distraught displaced populations.

The Myanmar government's history of corruption and abusive behaviour raises concerns that it would misuse relief efforts as cover to forcibly relocate populations in order to clamp down on or undermine support for opposition groups. Any relocation of internally displaced persons from camps or disaster areas must be voluntary, unless the safety and health of those affected requires evacuation. They should not be coerced in any way, including through the suspension of assistance to those persons.

The right of internally displaced persons to return voluntarily to their former homes or lands in safety and with dignity should be respected and the authorities should assist them in either returning or resettling in another part of the country. Human rights are most in jeopardy in situations of crisis and emergency,said Benjamin Zawacki. So it is critical that the Myanmar government and other actors recognize and support the central role of human rights defenders, including those engaged in humanitarian work and those monitoring violations, in the relief and reconstruction process.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Military Juntas don't care for Cylone Nagris in Burma


Even cyclone Nagris destroyed in the Irrawady delta region and more than 22,000 have been killed by the disaster, the military rulers do not care for their relifes and resettlements. Then they do not have any plan to issue the visas for any foreign NGOs or foreign supporters.

" Even more than a millions of people have been died, they won't care and they only care for their power stability, I pray for any International support as a food,water and shelter" said by the one Yangon resident.

"Actually living cost in Yangon is getting higher everday. Even as an egg 300 kyats, (0.30cents of US$). gasoline price is 9,000 kyats (9.01US$). However their income is very poor than one dollar per day. How can they survive in Burma, terrible and Burmese military government is very curious than facisim when we were occupied in Japanese and English in the 1940s."

"The international attack is urgently needed. The military group is only caring of US forces. I pray for US and other International attack. Currently situation is getting serious and other information is under severe condition" said by Ko Tun Aung from Yangon.

Myanmar cyclone a 'major, major disaster'


YANGON, Myanmar - Hungry crowds of survivors stormed the few shops that opened in Myanmar's stricken Irrawaddy delta, where food and international aid has been scarce since a devastating cyclone killed more than 22,000 people, the U.N. said Wednesday.

The U.N. said some 1 million people were homeless in the Southeast Asian country, also known as Burma."Basically the entire lower delta region is under water," said Richard Horsey, Bangkok-based spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid.
"Teams are talking about bodies floating around in the water," he said. This is "a major, major disaster we're dealing with."
But a massive international aid effort was being kept on hold by Myanmar's military rulers. Internal U.N. documents obtained by The Associated Press showed growing frustrations at foot-dragging by the junta, which has kept the impoverished nation isolated for five decades to maintain its iron-fisted control.
"Visas are still a problem. It is not clear when it will be sorted out," according to the minutes of a meeting of the U.N. task force coordinating relief for Myanmar in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday.

It said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "will contact Myanmar" Wednesday to arrange a meeting with high-ranking officials on the issue.
State media in military-ruled Myanmar said more than 22,000 people died when Cyclone Nargis blasted the country's western coast on Saturday and over 41,000 others were missing. But Horsey predicted the number of fatalities could rise "dramatically."

The U.N. World Food Program says as many as 1 million people may have been left homeless, with some villages nearly destroyed and vast rice-growing areas wiped out. The Irrawaddy delta is considered Myanmar's rice bowl.
The military junta normally restricts the access of foreign officials and organizations to the country, and aid groups were struggling to deliver relief goods.
"Most urgent need is food and water," said Andrew Kirkwood, head of Save the Children in Yangon. "Many people are getting sick. The whole place is under salt water and there is nothing to drink. They can't use tablets to purify salt water," he said.

First international aid reaches Myanmar after cyclone


International aid began to trickle into Myanmar on Tuesday, but the stricken Irrawaddy delta, the nation's rice bowl where 22,000 people perished and twice as many are missing, remained cut off from the world.In the former capital of Yangon, soldiers from the repressive military regime were out on the streets in large numbers for the first time since Cyclone Nargis hit over the weekend, helping to clear away rubble. Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns wielded axes and long knives to remove ancient, fallen trees that were once the city's pride.However, coastal areas of the delta worst hit by the high winds and tidal surges were out of reach for aid workers, isolated by flooding and road damage.Electricity remained cut for nearly all 6.5 million residents of Yangon, while water supply was restored in only a few areas. Some residents waited in lines for nine hours or more to buy gasoline to fuel generators and their cars. At one gas station in the Yangon suburb of Sanchaung, fistfights broke out, with weary residents hitting each other with sticks after someone tried to cut in line.

The U.N.'s World Food Program said international aid began to flow, with 800 tons of food getting through to the first of nearly 1 million people left homeless by the cyclone.Concerns mounted over the lack of food, water and shelter in the delta region and adjacent Yangon, where nearly a quarter of Myanmar's 57 million people live, as well as the spread of disease in a country with one of the world's worst health systems."Our biggest fear is that the aftermath could be more lethal than the storm itself," said Caryl Stern, who heads the U.N. Children's Fund in the United States.After days of little military presence in the streets, soldiers were out Tuesday clearing massive felled trees with power saws and axes and using their bare hands to lift debris into trucks.

State television played up the effort, showing images of a government truck distributing water, though residents said they hadn't seen any water trucks around the city. There were no images of the hundreds of monks helping the recovery effort.The broadcaster in its news program Wednesday quoted Yangon official Gen. Tha Aye as saying the situation was "returning to normal." He was shown visiting a Yangon-area village where residents were cutting apart downed trees and brush to clear the roads.

The streets of Yangon were filled Tuesday with residents carrying buckets to bring water from monasteries or buy it from households with generators that could pump it from wells. The main plant of Dagon Ice Factory, a drinking water brand, turned people away, posting signs saying "no more."While residents of Yangon struggled to clear away the rubble, the Irrawaddy delta was cut off.Images on state television Tuesday showed mangled trees and electricity poles sprawled across roads as well as roofless houses ringed by water in the delta, a lacework of paddy fields and canals where the nation's rice crop is grown.Based on a satellite map made available by the United Nations, the storm's damage was concentrated over about a 11,600-square- mile area along the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Martaban coastlines ­ less than 5 percent of the country, but home to nearly a quarter of the country's population.A C-130 military transport plane carrying government aid from neighboring Thailand flew into Yangon, where an Associated Press reporter watched it unload rice, canned fish, water and dried noodles.

The goods_ the first overseas aid to arrive in the stricken nation ­ were transferred to a helicopter, which Myanmar military officers said would ferry them to the most stricken areas.

The White House said Tuesday the U.S. would send more than $3 million to help cyclone victims, following an initial emergency contribution of $250,000.

President Bush called on the junta to allow the United States to send in a disaster assessment team, which he said would allow for quicker and larger aid infusions."The United States has made an initial aid contribution but we want to do a lot more," Bush said. "We're prepared to move U.S. Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country." Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the Navy has three ships in the Gulf of Thailand ­ the USS Essex, the USS Juneau and the USS Harper's Ferry ­ preparing to participate in an annual exercise with Thailand's naval forces. Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said two aircraft carriers ­ the USS Kitty Hawk and the USS Nimitz ­ as well as the USS Blue Ridge, are also within reach of Myanmar.

The Essex, an amphibious assault ship, has 23 helicopters aboard, including 19 that are capable of lifting cargo from ship to shore, as well as 1,800 Marines. The Myanmar military, which regularly accuses the United States of trying to subvert the regime, is unlikely to allow a U.S. military presence in its territory. But reflecting the seriousness of the crisis, the government has appealed for foreign aid and also announced Tuesday that it is delaying a crucial constitutional referendum in the hardest-hit areas. Australia announced Wednesday that it will give $3 million in aid to Myanmar.

State radio said Saturday's vote on a military-backed draft constitution would be delayed until May 24 in 40 of 45 townships in the Yangon area and seven in the wider delta. Pro-democracy advocates, including the political party of detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, have denounced the constitution as a tool to perpetuate the military's grip on power.

Inadequate warnings about the approaching storm and the ineffectiveness of the government in its aftermath could sway angry voters to reject the charter. State radio said most of the 22,464 dead, as well as the 41,000 missing, were in the densely populated Irriwaddy delta, home to 6 million people. It said 671 were killed in the Yangon area. Brig. Gen. Kyaw San, the information minister, said most fatalities were caused by tidal waves.

The death toll is the highest from a natural disaster in southeast Asia since the tsunami of December 2004 killed 229,866 people in Indonesia, Thailand and other parts of southeast and south Asia. With 61 dead, Myanmar was largely spared the devastating impact of the tsunami, which killed 130,000 people in Indonesia and 35,000 in Sri Lanka. In its wake, an extensive warning system was established in much of the Pacific region, but Myanmar did not participate. Disaster experts cited lack of funding and said the country planned to rely on regional systems. As the cyclone came bearing down on Myanmar late Friday, television broadcasts warned of 120-mph winds and 12-foot storm surges.

But electricity is so spotty in Myanmar that few households, especially in the poor rural areas that were worst hit, were aware of the warnings. The U.N. World Food Program offered a grim assessment of the destruction: up to 1 million people homeless, some villages almost totally destroyed and vast rice-growing areas wiped out. Rice futures rose Tuesday in response to the news that vast swaths of Myanmar's rice-growing areas had been wiped out. Myanmar grows 11 million tons of rice per year but exports only a small fraction, representing about 1.7 percent of world trade, according to USDA figures. It had been forecast to export about 400,000 tons this year, and concerns that Myanmar may not meet that target helped push U.S. rice futures 10 cents higher to settle at $21.15 per 100 pounds Tuesday on the Chicago Board of Trade. The military government said it was trying to move in aid and some foreign agencies managed to send assessment teams, including five from UNICEF. Richard Horsey, Bangkok-based spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid, noted the closest airport to the Irriwaddy delta is in Yangon. "The biggest problem will be to reach the affected areas. There will be a huge logistical problem," he said, adding that "for remote areas, assessment teams ... will need to go by helicopters and boats." The delta is criss-crossed with waterways, but Horsey said they are not easily accessible, even during normal times. "The big concern is waterborne diseases. So that's why it's crucial to get safe water in. Then mosquito nets, cooking kits and clothing in the next few days," he said. "Food is not an emergency priority. Water and shelter are."Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.