Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Politics Before People- Another Burmese Disaster

As if the poor Burmese people hadn't already suffered enough under a brutally oppressive, communist regime, they suffered further loss and damage at a catastrophic level due, in part, to the ineptitude of a government that seems to place more importance on politics over people. That seems more intent on maintaining the socialist status quo, than saving people.

Granted, the Myanmar Junta had no control over the fact that Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit landfall in Burma, but it did have control over adequately warning the Burmese citizens of the impending dangers of the storm. It did not. There were few warnings and no evacuations. As a result, 80,000 people have been reported dead in one village alone, 44,000 plus are missing, it is estimated that the deaths will exceed well over 100,000, and at least one million people have been left homeless. Many of them children.

And, it has failed miserably in the aftermath. The government, supposed caretaker and protector of its people, is doing virtually nothing. The military out in force last year, so readily available and willing to shoot innocent monks during their peaceful demonstrations, have been of little or no help. It's been 5 days since the storm, the people are starving, there is very little clean water, bodies are rotting in huge piles, and there are fears many more will die from starvation or disease, creating an even greater humanitarian disaster that could well rival that of the Tsunami of 2004. Unbelievably, the military is thought to be profiting from the catastrophe by grossly inflating the prices of water and food, and "trying to sell things like roofing on the black market."

Relief agencies and aid groups are poised and waiting to enter the country, but the Junta is dragging its feet by insisting on reviewing each and every visa. People are dying, and they are reviewing visas??!!

The junta has insisted that foreign aid workers must "negotiate" their entry to the country. The United Nations said the regime has finally appointed a minister to review visa applications by aid workers, but that no permits have yet been issued.

Many countries have pledged monetary and physical assistance, including the U.S. which has pledged 3 million, but help is being thwarted on every level by a bunch of paranoid generals who somehow feel threatened by allowing an influx of foreigners into a country they've had complete control over for decades. Obviously, they would rather see their people die, than relinquish some control. The Burmese deserve better, and hopefully will finally do something about a group of leaders who have systematically dragged what was once a thriving, prosperous country into darkness and despair.

In the meantime, The Centre for Cross Cultural Research at the Australian National University (ANU) has said that, in spite of the fact that the Junta will more than likely hoard much of the humanitarian aid, this should not stop the world from coming to Burma's aid. The only people who have stepped into action, ironically, are the Buddhist monks. The Junta, threatened by that, has been waging a propaganda war. According to Monique Skidmore , of the ANU,
"There's a bit of a propaganda battle being waged between the military, they're trying to stop pictures of monks helping the population from getting out into the public domain."

The monks have been providing shelter and food at their monasteries for the displaced and suffering people. For those who would rather see their donations go directly to the Burmese people, rather than the military Junta, is soliciting for the International Burmese Monks Organization and related groups, they

will transmit funds directly to monasteries in affected areas.In many of
the worst-hit areas, the monasteries are the only source of shelter and food for Burma's poorest people. They have been on the front lines of the aid effort since the storm struck. Other forms of aid could be delayed, diverted or manipulated by the Burmese government--but the monks are the most trusted and reliable institution in the country.
For more information, please go to


Karen said...

The story of this country just breaks my heart. This morning I heard on the news the number has risen again of those feared dead, according to our diplomats on the ground. It is hard to comprehend.

Thank God for people like Laura Bush, using her public platform to speak up for those suffering in Burma. And, for the monks.

Pat Jenkins said...

a quick glance over that story you linked to inocg i didn't see this confirmed, but i had heard they, the burmese government, had a week to prepare for this.... you know the thing i am left with in all this is how the government can have complete disregard for life, even if you hope to squelch those lives... that is some sad individuals who can be so callous...

Anonymous said...

"Didn't warn the citizens of the impending dangers of the storm..."

"failed miserably in the aftermath..."

"the ineptitude of a government that seems to place more importance on politics over [sic] people..."

Sounds pretty similar to a series of events from the American South not so long ago. Can you wrap your mind around that, even without a "brutally oppressive communist regime" to blame? C'mon -- see if you can.

kodiak73 said...

Of course then you have our lovely Mr. Gore essentially blaming the US for the whole thing by pinning the cyclone on Global Warming and giving the Junta an easy out to pin the suffering of their people on someone else... brilliant... not!

Kate said...

The people of Burma are in my prayers, thanks for posting on this, Incog! To be completely frank, I was not surprised at all to see the ilk of Al Gore chalking this up to global warming. Last time I checked, human incompetence should not be a way to exculpate dictators...

Z said...

It's so easy to ignore disasters like this, just let them float through the consciousness and never nest in our brains.
Good that you did this piece,'s important and those poor people need at least to be remembered. At least their deaths should be pitied; more than their own gov't's doing.

Incognito said...

KAREN: Me too! Tragic what they have had to endure for 40 years. There is so much corruption in the government and the desire to hang on to power that they just don't care. Sickening. And yes, thank God for the monks, they are a Godsend to the people there.

PATJ: Yes, they knew, they just figured it would be spared. They were spared major damage during the 2004 tsunami, and therefore decided they did not want to pay for the advanced warning system that was put into place post tsunami. They still knew in advance and did nothing. Shameful.

ANON: I figured I'd get someone equating Katrina with this situation. The difference is the people in Louisiana DID have fair warning, and many chose to stay put. Yes, you had the ineptitude of the mayor and governor, BOTH democrats who did nothing. Who let a slew of buses sit there, when they could have been evacuating those who would have left had they been able to. But, again, most chose to stay! Very different situation, though libs love to blame.

KODIAK: Yes, I read about that. Well, you know, he has to hang on to his theory somehow to maintain his credibility, in spite of evidence to the contrary. We've had some of the coldest, snowiest weather around the world in a long time. He's such an idiot.

KATE: Mine too. Just tragic. It isn't surprising. next they'll be blaming Bush for the whole thing, I mean, why not!

Z: Thanks, m'dear. Well, at least we have tried, and no-on can blame us for not trying to lend a hand. Very sad.

Nikki said...

I have seen many blogs writing about this situation. Hopefully the word will get out and people can speak out...great post. :)N

WomanHonorThyself said...

hey girl!..they were warned indeed but sigh.......some folks never learn ...Israel and the US gave assistance despite being asked not to!

American said...

Mind boggling stupidity! As I write news has just broke that Burma's junta has impounded two United Nations food aid shipments at Rangoon airport, triggering more outrage ... I just saw an interview with the Director of the World Food Program. He was visibly furious!

Incognito said...

NIKKI: The world is ready, willing and able.. what do you do with a regime that refuses to allow the help, or steals it?

WOMAN: I know... but that's the pathetic thing.. they don't care.

AI: I would be too... it truly is a moral dilemma... you want to help, but if the food is rotting before it gets to the people, isn't it better served in a country that will take it? sigh.

Incognito said...

Promised to post this comment by someone who was unable to, thank you ExP.

Jack (AKA ExPreacherMan)

This is a great, thoughtful post.

But I missed the worst implication of the Junta doing nothing. Genocide!

Bookworm has an interesting take on the tragedy -- comparing Myanmar and
its inaction with the potential holocaust with Iran vs Israel-- and the
United States as a player..

Hers is a very unique and insightful post.

In Christ,