Arakan NGO to Hold Fundraising Concert for Conflict-Affected Children

By San Yamin Aung 22 November 2013

RANGOON — An Arakan State-based NGO is set to hold a concert in Rangoon on Sunday to raise money toward education for children in conflict affected parts of the country, organizers said.

The fundraising concern, which has already received donations from telecoms firm Ooredoo and former military general Khin Nyunt, will be held at the National Theatre on Myoma School Road, Rangoon, from 7 pm on Sunday, ending at 1 am.

The Rakhine National Social & Welfare Organization (RNSWO) is organizing the concert and says it will donate the money it raises primarily toward monastic education, and to education resources for displaced children, in Kachin State, Arakan State and Meiktila, Mandalay Division.

Tens of thousands of mostly Christian civilians in Kachin State have been displaced by the ongoing conflict between government troops and Kachin rebels that reignited in 2011.

The town of Meiktila exploded in deadly violence in March when the local Buddhist and Muslim populations clashed. An estimated 10,000 people, mostly Muslims, were displaced and are now living in temporary camps outside the town.

Two bursts of inter-communal violence in Arakan State last year involving Arakanese Buddhists and stateless Rohingya Muslims displaced an estimated 140,000 people, the majority of who are Rohingya, and are still living in makeshift camps.

U Kumara, an RNSWO trustee and a Buddhist monk, said many monasteries in the conflict-torn areas had an acute need for stationery and other resources. He insisted, the organization would not discriminate based on religion when giving aid.

“We are fair. We intend to help the whole of Burma, not distribute only to Buddhists. But we will prioritize the first citizens [of Burma],” he said.

The Burmese government refuses to recognize Rohingya as citizens of the country, despite a United Nations resolution this week calling for it to do so.

Organizers say more than 40 famous singers, actors and actresses will perform at the fundraising gig, as well as the “Plus Three Band,” “Gitanjali Band” and “Girl’s Universal Dance Crew.”

Myat Khine Kyaw, spokesperson for RNSWO, told to The Irrawaddy on Friday that donations had already come in from private individuals and businesses including Burma’s former intelligence chief Khin Nyunt and telecoms firm Ooredoo. The Qatari company was one of two winners of Burma’s hotly-contested telecommunications tender in June.

“Ooredoo donated US$ 15, 000 [15 million kyat] this month. Former military General Khin Nyunt also donated 500,000 kyat [about $500],” he said, adding other businessmen had also donated to the cause.

Myat Khine Kyaw reiterated that the money raised at the concert would address need in education, which he said was the most important issue in Burma’s reform process.

“Most parents in conflict areas are poor after conflicts. They can’t afford to support their children education,” he said. “We found that children in refugee camps and in monastic education do not enough in stationery, equipments and school buildings and don’t even have enough clothes.”

Tickets cost between 5,000 kyat and 15,000 kyat, or about $5 to $15, depending on the seat. Myat Khine Kyaw said that out of 1,465 seats of concert, more than 1,000 had been sold already, within a week of going on sale.