CAN MYANMAR BE HELPED?

Today the first American plane with relief supplies reached Myanmar (Burma). But the question is how much help will the desperate people actually receive? According to the U.N fewer than one-third of the refugees have received any aid and the estimated death total has reached 216,000.

The problem is the military junta. Relief distribution is dreadfully slow because of restrictions imposed by the military regime. A member of the junta has announced that foreign aid workers are prohibited from entering the disaster area and they must give all their supplies to the military for distribution. Food boxes have been slapped with the names of the military, clearly a self-serving propaganda effort by a group that knows little or nothing about the distribution of disaster relief.

Two immediate dangers are food riots and epidemics. Flooded areas in the disaster zone are contaminated with human and animal waste making them “an effective breeding ground” for diseases like cholera and typhoid. Yet only two of 20 visa requests by World Vision have been processed.

As a horrified world offered help, the generals continue to be obstructive. Aid workers waited in vain for visas and the junta haggled about import duties on emergency supplied. “This,” wrote the Economist, “is criminal.”

So what can be done to help the dying and injured in Myanmar?

Should the West try to ignore the junta and fly in supplies and personnel without their permission?

Or should the West aid and abet the junta by giving them relief supplies directly for distribution even though they are likely to make a hash of it?

Or should the West withhold supplies until the junta agrees to fully cooperate>

What do you think?

Finally, do you think Canadians will give money to relief agencies such as World Vision if the junta continues to interfere and delay the relief effort?

16 Comments »

  1. 1
    Cornelius T. Zen Says:

    Good morrow, all!
    There is really only one solution that would aid the people of Myanmar. It would be relatively simple, and executed correctly, it would be relatively swift. However, it is also politically and diplomatically incorrect.
    That is why the people of Myanmar will continue to suffer, as the junta intends. Unless and until the junta gets out of the way, or is put out of the way, nothing will change. CTZen

  2. 2

    I usually donate to disaster relief funds, but not this time – I have zero faith that the aid will reach those in need and will not be used to prop up a junta.

    Unfortunately many accusations were thrown around carelessly in the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami, specifically against the US and Australian armed forces who were first responders in that disaster. Despite saving many lives, the UN and others criticized them for acting outside of the UN effort (which was very late and ineffective). In Burma (Myanmar), the US could force the issue – but why would they risk international vilification to do so?

    I’ve seen Time magazine is advocating invasion of Burma on humanitarian grounds, yet this same publication refuses to acknowledge that the US has helped Iraqis and Afghanis – so why is it OK to be interventionist now, and isolationist elsewhere? What would Time be saying in 5 years when the US cannot pull out of Burma for fear of what may happen to the people that helped them?

    The unfolding tragedy in Burma shows how impotent the world is without decisive leadership and the ability to act. The UN can’t do it, nor can the EU or any of the charities. This time I don’t think the US will do what it could, and after the cynical EU inaction in Kosovo and the UN’s awful record over Darfur and in Africa as a whole, who can blame them?

    Burma has no solution, perhaps internal and outside pressure will make the junta relax the restrictions enough to help, but it’s been a week already – many that could have been saved are doomed by the delays already.

  3. 3
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    Wow, I was trying to find the words to express how I feel about this thing but dailybayonet pretty much said it.

  4. 4

    dailybayonet:

    I agree with Tony. Your comment is balanced and informed. I was not aware of Time’s position. Many thanks.

  5. 5
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Aye, Aye, Dailybayonnet is indeed right. And, two years later how is Louisiana aid getting on? The Red Cross still has milions unused tsunami aid money? And there were no Generals standing in the way.

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