International Writers Magazine:Burma
Aftermath 14th May 2008
news 14.05.08: Burma Junta seal cyclone zone to prevent foreigners gaining
access - meanwhile another cyclone is gathering strength. 34,000 'officially
dead' but figure could be 100,000 or more BBC News
Suffering Continues in Burma
unconfirmed figures from the UN have the death toll, possibly, at
The junta still hasnt allowed any aid workers into the country.
They allowed some plane loads of food and medicines in but then
immediately commandeered everything. Now the US is reluctant to
send anymore aid, unless aid workers are allowed to accompany the
materials and see to their distribution.
A relief team leader
had this to say about sending material into Burma without aid workers
to look after it. The dictators of Burma continue to directly
attack their own people and in the case of the cyclone provided little
or no warning, nor did they provide any immediate response to help people
in need. An ongoing challenge will be to ensure that relief materials
and funds go to those in need and are not diverted by the dictators.
We will be sending help through the network of individuals and churches
that we have now in Burma and we will be relying on them to account
for and report on the relief assistance.
Another aid worker said it even more succinctly. You can be sure
that only pennies on the dollar will be given to the people.
Leading general, Than Schwe (who should die slowly), hasnt been
seen since last Saturday. He even refused to meet with or even talk
with the UN by telephone. In the face of all of the insanity involved
in refusing aid, the junta marches forward, determined to hold a referendum
today, the 10th , the result of which will basically keep the current
government in power in perpetuity.
Far from the watchful eye of the worlds media and aid workers
seeking to help cyclone victims in and around Yangon, the SPDC (Burmese
army) launched attacks against the Karen ethnic minority people. They
burned homes, destroyed villages and attacked refugee camps (IDPs).
I tried to imagine something more horrible than launching a military
strike against people in the wake of such a terrible disaster, but I
When asked what steps the junta had taken to help their own people,
an aid worker had this to say. There is no plan of action internally.
There is limited infrastructure. The military is working only limitedly.
The constitution will be voted on next week and must be monitored by
force. There was not even a forklift at the international airport to
take off initial supplies from Thailand.
Another aid worker explained that so much of the suffering was avoidable.
The military are making this so much worse. This is a textbook
example of how not to respond to a disaster. They had 48 hour warning
from India, yet they didn't warn the people, especially not in the Irrawaddy
Delta, the worst hit area. Now they are delaying the vitally needed
aid agency workers by placing conditions on their work and not giving
them unfettered access to the worst affected areas.
France has demanded that the UN enact a byline which gives the UN the
right to enter a country and render aid, without permission, if there
is a major catastrophe and the local government refuses aid. Basically,
the UN has the right to enter Burma and save lives in spite of the wishes
of the generals.
I know from my own experience with 911 that in a crisis, more good people
surface than bad. People forget their former problems with each other
and they help, they simply help because it is the right thing to do.
Probably 90% of the communities who donated food, money, clothes, and
medicine to New York were poorer than New York. But they didnt
care. When a catastrophe effects others, you need only ask yourself,
What if that were my family, my wife, my children? What would
I want others to do for me? The answers are clear. You have to
In the last forty-eight hours I have received a steady stream of emails
from people asking if I could get them into Burma and asking where and
how to volunteer or send money. God bless them all.
Strong words of support have come from some unlooked for corners. China,
who vetoed the UN proposal for forced aid in Darfur and Burma, is now
asking the generals to open up and accept western aid.
George Bush, who I wouldnt normally think of as a humanitarian
said, in a quote in the Economic Times, 'Our message is to the
military rulers: Let the US come to help you, help the people. Our hearts
go out to the people of Burma. We want to help them deal with this terrible
disaster. At the same time, of course, we want them to live in a free
To my knowledge, this has been the first major statement, by a US politician
which hints at forcing the junta to allow democracy in Burma.
An article in the Irish Times said, President Bush urged Burma
to allow US damage assessment teams into the country while at a ceremony
Tuesday, where he signed legislation to give a Congressional Gold Medal
to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still under house arrest in Burma.
Look at your watch, wait five minutes. Someone just died in Burma. Most
of the deaths which will happen over the next two weeks will be completely
preventable if aid could get in. One aid organization said they are
trying to partner with organization already inside the country. Even
aid organizations with permanent offices in Yangon are being denied
additional visas for more staff. And of course, there is the issue of
planes cargos being confiscated when it arrives in Burma.
India & ASEAN are getting some in, maybe China, so far. The
SPDC will skim what it can. Explained one aid worker yesterday.
But now it looks like even the trickle of aid coming from Asia is drying
If people in USA want to send money, where should they send it?
So far I've recommended Mercy Corps here in Portland, they are
very effective in these situations, and US Campaign for Burma has a
donate button on their site. World Vision is in country already but
have religious baggage, also Save the Children is operating there already.
This was a quote from a noted Burma author. Luckily the Junta dont
read books, so she can maintain her anonymity.
Commenting on the impact of the cyclone, she said, Mangrove destruction
made this much worse, also siltation of Irrawaddy due to deforestation.
The generals are known for selling off Burmas timber, absolutely
wrecking the environment. The Generals are safe and sound in Naypyidaw.
Last year, the incredibly superstitious junta moved the capital from
Yangon to Naypyidaw.
The date for the referendum was probably set by astrologers, so
they are locked into that. She went on to speculate, But
this could affect army unity -- many have family in the Delta.
It is highly likely that a very small percentage of Burmese soldiers
actually support the junta. Most are conscripts and are themselves victims
of brutality and abuse at the hands of their superiors. And of course,
relief aid is not reaching the families of privates, only top ranking
We are now facing a health disaster with severe risk of malaria,
cholera and other water born diseases. Over a million people spent their
seventh night without good water or shelter last night.
The long term effects of this disaster will be a staggering death toll.
Please, say a prayer for the people of Burma.
Antonio Graceffo is a qualified Emergency Medical Technician, as well
as an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is the Host
of the web TV show, Martial Arts Odyssey, Currently he is
working inside of Shan State, documenting human rights abuses, doing
a film and print project to raise awareness of the Shan people.
To see all of his videos about martial arts, Burma and other countries:
Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com
Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com
see his website http://speakingadventure.com/burma.htm
Antonio is self-funded and seeking sponsors. If you wish to contribute
to the In Shanland film project, you can donate through
paypal, through the Burma page of my website.
© Antonio Graceffo May 10th 2008
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