Friday, May 9, 2008

Get out of the way ... or else

More than 1 million homeless people are in desperate need of food, medical assistance and shelter after the devastating cyclone in Myanmar, and their own government, such as it is, is preventing them from getting the help they require to survive. The country's repressive, brutal military dictatorship seized United Nations World Food Program donations Friday, forcing the organization to suspend its assistance. The death toll already has surpassed 60,000, and aid groups are warning of a pending medical disaster, but the ruling junta is more concerned about keeping its iron grip on the country than the well-being of its countrymen. I think they're mainly concerned that if outsiders are allowed into the country and some sort of insurrection breaks out, they won't be able to employ their usual tactics: murder and false imprisonment. I'm not generally an advocate of military intervention to solve problems. We've seen how well that has worked out in Iraq (billions of our tax dollars wasted, thousands dead), but in this instance, with hundreds of thousands of lives at stake, the world at large should tell the Myanmar "leaders" that aid and aid workers are coming into their country, and if the only way the aid can be delivered is through the use of force, so be it. When you put it that way, people who are desperate to cling to power might be inclined to listen.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd heard in another report that prior to the government siezing a shipment and turning others away that one of the shipments arrived with an unauthorized search-and-rescue team and media representatives on board.

While I certainly don't agree with the Myanmar government standing in the way, we Westerners certainly aren't helping our case any by sending unauthorized people and expecting to just be welcomed with open arms.

May 9, 2008 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

If they don't want foreign media in their country, that's their business and not worth fighting over, but when potentially hundreds of thousands of people could starve or die of preventable diseases, that's where I would draw the line.

May 9, 2008 at 5:04 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

A Saturday update on the aid situation in Myanmar (Burma):
The country's military dictators are starting to allow in more outside assistance but are still blocking foreign aid workers who could help assess needs and get relief to those who most need it. But, obviously, that is not the junta's primary concern, as evidenced by this report from the Associated Press this morning:

YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's military regime distributed international aid Saturday but plastered the boxes with the names of top generals in an apparent effort to turn the relief effort for last week's devastating cyclone into a propaganda exercise.
The United Nations sent in three more planes and several trucks loaded with aid, though the junta took over its first two shipments. The government agreed to let a U.S. cargo plane bring in supplies Monday, but foreign disaster experts still were being barred entry.
Despite international appeals to postpone a referendum on a controversial proposed constitution, voting began Saturday in all but the hardest hit parts of the country. With voters going to the polls, state-run television continuously ran images of top generals including junta leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, handing out boxes of aid at elaborate ceremonies.
"We have already seen regional commanders putting their names on the side of aid shipments from Asia, saying this was a gift from them and then distributing it in their region," said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, which campaigns for human rights and democracy in the country.
"It is not going to areas where it is most in need," he said in London.

May 10, 2008 at 10:40 AM  

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