myanmar generals’ travesty

Posted on May 9, 2008


When the unfortunate people of Myanmar get through the catastrophe of the cyclone that is believed to have killed over 23,000 over the weekend and put 1.5 million at risk of starvation or disease, they will hopefully have the strength to come together and overthrow the nasty, corrupt and callous military regime that is prolonging their misery.

It is truly mind-boggling how callous the junta is towards its people.

After the massive cyclone that leveled homes, took lives and cut off supplies to the survivors and threatened their survival, the military junta’s first instinct was self-preservation.

Rather than focus on bringing relief and aid to those afflicted by the cyclone, the junta insisted on carrying on as scheduled this Saturday with a ridiculous referendum on the country’s new constitution, which is likely to be rigged anyway. After much international criticism, it only begrudgingly stated that the voting would be postponed in the worst affected areas.

While bodies pile up, people remain thirsty and hungry as water and electricity supply stayed cut-off, and the injured receive no medical aid, the Myanmar generals dawdle about letting international aid and supplies into the isolated and paranoid country.

It has been six days since the disaster and aid organizations and foreign governments had been lining up, waiting to be of help and service.

While the well-meaning foreigners are anxious to get into the country to help, the Myanmar government takes its time to issue visas for aid workers and puts off granting permission for flights ferrying supplies and aid to land in the worst hit areas. Aid is only just trickling in painfully.

The stalling has caused such international anguish and worry for the state of the injured and needy in Myanmar, that the United Nations is practically demanding that the intransigent generals allow aid workers and organizations in without further delay.

“The situation is profoundly worrying,” the United Nations official in charge of the relief effort, John Holmes, told the New York Times. “They have simply not facilitated access in the way we have a right to expect.”

Some countries such as Britain and France are so desperate to get help where it is most needed, they are actually contemplating invading Myanmar’s air space by flying in and air-dropping food and supplies.

Suffer the poor Myanmese people. Why is it that outsiders are more worried for them than their own government?

Under pressure, the regime said outsiders were free to help and donate supplies but made clear the presence of foreigners is not welcome.

“Currently Myanmar has prioritized receiving emergency relief provisions and is making strenuous efforts to transport those provisions without delay by its own labors to the affected areas,” the country’s Foreign Ministry said. “As such, Myanmar is not ready to receive search-and-rescue teams as well as media teams from foreign countries.”

It is a classic conundrum for aid organizations: put human lives that are at risk first by demanding to be let in to help, or respect the sovereignty of states.

Clearly, the regime feels threatened by the presence of aid groups and foreign help. If they were allowed in, it would only cement the resentment the people already feel against the junta, and contribute to the impression of its inability to handle the country’s affairs competently.

So while the junta worries about its image and remains suspicious of getting external help, foreign planes and personnel ready to help sit by helplessly, waiting for the green light; and the suffering people of Myanmar face a potentially disastrous health catastrophe as the threat of malaria, diarrhea and other related starts to spread.

This is a crime against humanity. If only the generals could be hauled off to face trial and punishment for this.

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