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FREE FUNERAL SERVICE SOCIETY

42 images Created 3 Feb 2012

Founded in January 2001, the Free Funeral Service Society (FFSS) in Rangoon provides free funeral services to people unable to cover the costs of cremating relatives. Receiving more than 50 requests for funerals per day, the organisation has paid for more than 100,000 funerals since it was opened. It is dependent solely on donations, receiving no assistance from the authorities. Instead, the authorities have over the years threatened and hassled the organisation and despite recent changes in Burma, the oppressive attitude of the authorities towards social organisations continues today. The FFSS often receive calls from the emergency services to clear dead bodies from traffic and train accidents or even murders. If they refuse to do so then the authorities will clamp down on their activities and prohibit the work that they do.

The FFSS is run by current president and one of its founders, Kyaw Thu. As an acclaimed actor and director, Kyaw Thu is a popular figure in Burmese society for his film roles and movies he has made, but since the early 2000s he has devoted much of his time to do social work for the poor and in the process has gradually emerged as a vocal critic of the Burmese government. He was arrested in October 2007 for distributing donations to monks during the Saffron Revolution in 2007 and his HIV/AIDS awareness film was blocked by the government censorship board. In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis it was his organisation that provided much needed assistance, food and water to the thousands left to perish by the authorities. He has used his prominence to help the country's poor and since 2003 the society has helped pay medical costs in poor neighborhoods of Yangon and in 2007 the Thukha Free Clinic was opened, providing free basic medical care with a team of 50 doctors, 60 support staff and over 300 volunteers throughout the organisation. The Free Funeral Services Society also now provides free English and computer classes with more than 500 students.
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