Lone travel firm supports Myanmar’s wounded

SINGAPORE, 19 April 2021: Pandaw Cruises founder and CEO Paul Strachan describes in his latest email dispatch, efforts to provide medical and financial support to hundreds of Myanmar families who have fallen victim to the military junta’s vicious attacks.

Pandaw Cruises is one of the few travel organisations to denounce the military coup and support the people of Myanmar through medical donations. So far, it has raised more than USD120,000 for Pandaw clinic medical teams. Relief efforts have been extended to a broader area beyond the seven villages where they usually run day clinics to aid those suffering gunshot wounds.

“With these funds, we have been able to expand our usual GP clinics with free medications to a much larger geographical area and to more people across rural Burma, many of whom are now in dire circumstances due to the collapse of the economy,” Strachan explains.

Pandaw operates a fleet of seven luxury river cruise boats in Myanmar that remain dry-docked due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the 1 February military coup. More than 800 unarmed protesters have been killed by marauding troops on the direct orders of the military junta.

Pandaw is funding medical aid and has handled out 500 food parcels using Pandaw crew members as volunteers.

“People are now suffering from real hunger. I know just 500 parcels in a country of 56 million is a mere drop in the ocean, but it is better than nothing. However, once we get the logistics up to speed (purchase and delivery), I believe we can move a lot more.”

Describing horrific scenes, Strachan says, “young men and women are being gunned down for no reason at all, often just because they are unlucky enough to have met a police patrol on their way home. This is not just happening in the cities but in small towns and villages.

Pandaw is also supporting another medical charity, Medical Action Myanmar (www.mam.org.mm), based in Yangon that provides medical support in the suburbs that have been turned into “nothing other than killing fields. They also are offering food relief to starving people.

The military junta has sought to quell mass protests with lethal force, and a local monitoring group has verified at least 714 civilian deaths but warns the toll is likely to be even higher France24 news channel reported.

“The United Nations, human rights chief, warned late last week that Myanmar could be spiralling towards a “full-blown” Syrian-style conflict.

“Flagging of possible crimes against humanity, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet urged countries to take immediate action to push Myanmar’s military to stop its “campaign of repression and slaughter of its people.”

Strachan’s own assessment based on feedback provided by the company’s network of staff and friends suggests an average of 100 civilians a day are being arbitrarily shot.

“It is now reaching the stage of genocide. We have seen video clips of soldiers shooting into people’s houses, and Kalemyo, a popular stop on Chindwin cruises, was shelled by artillery last week.

“This is genocide by the army against their own people. We have been collecting images and video clips which you can see here. This content can be disturbing.”

The company’s well known Captain Phyoe, an expert Chindwin river master, was arrested last week in Monywa town for joining in the CDM (Campaign for Democracy in Myanmar) protest. Monywa Lawyers Network has attempted to get him released, but as he is charged with treason there is little hope, Strachan explained.

Reports in the country suggest people are beginning to organise a resistance using homemade guns. Defections from the army, particularly from appalled young officers appalled at the orders coming from military leaders, are now occurring daily.

As the country slips into anarchy, local people’s committees are forming in towns in villages to take over basic administration and maintain some form of order. The 10 main insurgent armies are rallying to the CDM cause, and already there is talk of a unified ‘federal’ army made up of the tribal groups, the people and defectors from the Tatmadaw, Strachan warned.

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Pandaw has been collecting images and video clips which can be viewed here. The content can be disturbing.