Burma Cyclone


AP: Myanmar politics roiled, but junta grip firm by karenzr

Interesting piece from the Associated Press on the political fallout from the Saffron Revolution and then the cyclone. Here’s an excerpt: 

<<Analysts say these passions and emerging trends may in the longer term loosen the junta’s grip on power. But for now it’s business as usual: dissidents are arrested, a brutal campaign against ethnic minorities rages on and the military strides toward elections guaranteed to perpetuate its control.>>

Also states that the influx of foreigners post-Nargis ‘may be the most intense interaction Myanmar has experienced with the outside world since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1948.”

Also, from Agence France Presse: UN chief says will press Myanmar on democracy.

–Karen  

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Latest News: Junta reneging on promises to UN chief: Economist by carpediemdg

A month of misery
(First para of the article)

WHEN the United Nations’ secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, met Myanmar’s reclusive leader, General Than Shwe, on May 23rd, he secured a promise of free access for foreign aid workers to the millions of victims of cyclone Nargis. But more than a month after the cyclone, many have still not been reached. Access to the devastated Irrawaddy delta is only slightly freer.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: First public comments from high-ranking Burmese military junta rep. by carpediemdg

reports that earlier today, a breakthrough was achieved following UN Sect. General, Ban-Ki-Moon’s visit to Burma. In the first public comments offered by a member of the military junta, Burmese Prime Minister, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, finally announced that:

“Relief supplies can be transported by land, air or sea,” Lt. Gen Thein Sein told the conference, the Associated Press reported. “But if relief supplies have to be transported by water, civilian vessels can come in through Yangon port.”

Other highlights from the article:

  • Gen. Than Shwe, who did not attend Sunday’s donor meeting, has still to make any public comments on the cyclone, which left at least 133,000 people dead or missing, according to Myanmar government estimates.
  • Donors who attended the conference said they were ready to stump up more money. Many donors warned that formal pledges would be contingent on Yangon following through on its promises about access. Yangon, says it has received pledges from governments for only about one-quarter of a $200 million “flash appeal” to provide food, water, shelter and medicines for those most in need.
  • Myanmar has accepted 3,200 tons of foreign government and private aid so far. But the U.N. says that aid has only reached about a quarter of those most severely affected by the cyclone.
  • The reasons for the military’s change of position remain obscure. Here are some possible reasons offered in the Journal’s article:- Rising concern about the scale of the crisis appears to be a major factor.
  • The visit of the U.N. leader to the hierarchy-obsessed nation had been enough to break the
    impasse. In contrast, Gen. Than Shwe declined to meet U.N. special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim
    Gambari, during a pre-cyclone visit earlier this year.
  • Gen. Than Shwe, who is reportedly in poor health and rarely leaves the new capital, may not have
    been fully apprised of the international aid community’s demands for better access.

“This is basically a Potemkin society in which the leadership has been insulated from
unpleasantness,” said David Steinberg, director of the Asian studies program at Georgetown
University in Washington.

  • Waited to conduct its referendum on a new draft constitution, which is designed to perpetuate
    military rule. On Saturday, voting on the new constitution took place in cyclone-ravaged areas after an earlier vote was delayed. The rest of the country voted May 10 and-amid widespread reports of vote-rigging and intimidation-official results showed the constitution was approved by 92.4% of voters. With the referendum completed, Gen. Than Shwe might be more willing to allow in foreigners, Mr. Steinberg said.
  • Others said that the regime probably bowed to pressure from its own people and its neighbors,
    especially China.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Photos: Trail of destruction in Burma by carpediemdg

Here’s the link to ‘pictures of the day’ on the New York Times website. Among other events across the globe, the photographs capture the trail of destruction left behind by cyclone Nargis as UN Sect. General, Ban-Ki-Moon surveys the scene.

Pictures of the Day

— Divya



Latest News: United Nations Secretary General to visit Burma by carpediemdg

According to the latest news reports from Associated Press, the UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon will be visiting Burma this Thursday, stay till Friday, then head to Bangkok and return to Rangoon on Sunday to attend a pledging conference to be jointly hosted and organized by ASEAN and the United Nations.

His visit comes after initial resistance by the military junta which has seemingly relented, in small measure, on the issue of aid distribution by foreign aid workers but limited such assistance to its “Asian neighbors.” Responding to the opportunity, “in Singapore, an emergency meeting of foreign ministers from the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed to set up an ASEAN-led task force for distributing foreign aid.”

In other highlights from the article,

  • Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the meeting that losses from the cyclone are expected to be “well over US$10 billion.”
  • United Nations said the rest of its foreign staff were still barred from the delta and it described conditions there as “terrible,” with hundreds of thousands of cyclone victims suffering from hunger, disease and lack of shelter.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: Ban Ki-Moon Puts Pressure on Burma by karenzr

Ban Ki-Moon’s recently addressed the United Nations Press Corps “to publicly press the repressive regime in Myanmar to allow a larger number of foreign aid workers to help with the humanitarian crisis created by cyclone Nargis,” wrote UN expert, Bhaskar Menon. See the full blog post here on “Undiplomatic Times” – a blog about international affairs. Also visit the UN News Center here.

–Karen