Burma Cyclone


Latest News: Political opposition launches new site by karenzr

On August 8, 1988, students in Rangoon led a wave of mass popular protest against the Burmese junta. The military government responded with a brutal crackdown– it was, roughly, the Burmese Tianamen Square.

The 20-year anniversary of the uprising is approaching, and August 8, 2008 also marks the start of the Olympics, hosted by the Chinese, who consistently defend the Burmese government in the international arena. The exile group 8-8-08 for Burma just launched a new site criticizing China and calling on readers to take action to draw attention to human rights abuses in Burma.

–Karen



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



Events: Joint Burma-China fundraiser concert and awareness event by carpediemdg

(Via Myra Dahgaypaw who works for the Burmese government-in-exile or NCGUB)

This event (part awareness and part concert) is already over unfortunately but it might still be helpful to know that it happened.  Click on image to learn more.

–Divya



OPINION/EDITORIAL: British newspaper columnist, Simon Jenkins, proposes “humanitarian intervention” in Burma. by karenzr

In a recent column in the Huffington Post, Simon Jenkins, former editor of “The Times,” asks where the saber-rattlers of the West are “as Burma’s dying cry out to be saved.”

Excerpt:

I have opposed many of the macho military interventions conducted by the west over the past decade. Their justifications have been obscure, their motives mixed and their morality situational, especially those aimed at “regime change”. Those in Afghanistan and Iraq had the additional defect of built-in failure.

On the other hand the west did intervene to try to stop humanitarian catastrophes in Bosnia from 1992, Somalia in 1993, Kosovo in 1998 and Sierra Leone in 2000. The failure to intervene in Rwanda in 1994 and more recently in Sudan’s Darfur province was generally attributed not to timidity but to the logistical difficulty of deploying power in the African interior.>>

I disagree with that last sentence, but an interesting discussion nonetheless.

U.S. Campaign for Burma also compared Burma and Rwanda, calling on the U.S., U.K and France to send in aid without the junta’s permission and despite China’s block on a Security Council resolution to authorize such a move.

–Karen



Donations: Commentary: How true is your altruism? by karenzr

Interesting piece in the NYT Freakonomics blog by Stephen J. Dubner about donations after natural disasters. Notes that international donations for Myanmar cyclone relief are still quite low– and that media coverage, not surprisingly, causes big jumps in the amount of money raised.

Update:Dubner discussed the piece this morning on the new NPR show The Takeaway.

–Karen