Burma, The Damage Done

[More pictures here]

Death toll rising horrifically- 22,000 & 41,000 missing (State radio via BBC). APPPB though reports 50,000 dead, probably quoting from Burma country director for welfare agency Save The Children, Canadian Andrew Kirkwood.

Aid is being pledged (but let’s remember a pledge is not the same as actual aid provided or that it is well implemented)- £5 million from the UK govt.

The Burma Campaign UK also called for the Department for International Development to ensure that the £5m for cyclone victims is additional aid for Burma, and not redirected from the existing aid budget. Last year the International Development Committee of the House of Commons called on DFID to quadruple aid to Burma. DFID has since agreed to double aid to Burma, but the budget is still too small compared to the needs of the country.

Bush has pledged help though in the form of…put it this way the US military under the leadership of Bush is not to be trusted, that is one of the costs of allowing this criminal administration to remain in power, when help is needed and they offer is it a very poisoned chalice?-

Earlier Tuesday, President Bush called on Myanmar’s military junta to allow the team in. “The United States has made an initial aid contribution but we want to do a lot more,” Bush said in the Oval Office. “We’re prepared to move U.S. Navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country.” Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. military is ready to move Navy ships to Myanmar but will not do that until assistance is authorized. The Navy said it would take the ships about four days to make the trip.

And the financial aid offered is woefully low ($3million) even if they awarded Aung San Suu Kyi a shiny medal in a PR stunt. The well organised self-sufficiency of capable military units make them useful in emergency situations, but given the track record of the Bush regime other nations would make a better contribution and not raise the spectre of a more permanent presence. [And for now let’s leave alone the spectacle of the Bush family criticising the situation as if Katrina were a triumph of humanitarian action]-

“The US first lady’s political demands were inappropriate,” said Aung Naing Oo, an exiled Burmese political analyst. “This is a time when people are dying and suffering to a horrible degree, so if the US really wants to help, it can help without making political demands,” he said.

. APPPB also says rather enigmatically-

According to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokeswoman, the military regime has shown their disposition to receive international aid after the cyclone but the modes remain to be determined.

These organisations-

are now involved in moving aid and supplies into Burma, also-

Burma’s neighbors, including Thailand and India, have begun sending aid to the country in the wake of a devastating cyclone that struck on Saturday, but the United Nations has so far been unable to respond with the massive aid that it has vowed to provide. One reason for the delay is that UN relief workers, who will assess the extent of the damage inflicted by Cyclone Nargis, are still waiting for Burma’s military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), to issue them with visas to enter the country.

Meanwhile, aid from neighboring countries is beginning to flow into Burma. A military plane carrying supplies from Bangkok arrived today, and the India government has sent two navy ships loaded with rice, medicine, tents and other essentials for the cyclone’s victims. A spokesperson for the International Red Cross, which has already begun providing assistance from within the country, said more was on the way from Malaysia.

Other countries, including the US, the UK, Norway, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Japan, are also lining up to offer aid to Burma.

“We can say that the international relief effort is gearing up quickly and it is now a question of working on the logistics and getting the channels of distribution,” said Richard Horsey, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “The Myanmar [Burma] government authorities have called for international assistance, but the question is the practicalities,” he said.

But get this gem-

As criticism of the junta’s handling of the disaster mounts, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that he anticipated the speedy restoration of “normal life under the leadership of the SPDC.”

Yeah thanks Jintao, clearly this was his play to Bush’s- give us unfettered access to your sovereign territory angle. What though of the political dimension internally? The junta have now postponed the referendum in the worst hit areas, they are not stupid, it is meant as a sop to the people and a distraction from their rule, as such it works better for them for it to be seen to be done ‘fairly’ (despite all democratic opposition boycotting it) so postponement lets them look like concerned statesmen. But as the last eruption of protest was triggered by price rises the situation could become very precarious, via Jotman

Bangkok Pundit quoting the Bangkok Post– The fertile, low-lying Irrawaddy Division is also the chief rice growing area. Damage to the Irrawaddy’s irrigation systems and crops was still unreported by state television, which is tightly monitored in this military-run country. “The rice was high. This will certainly effect the rice crop negatively,” said a western diplomat.

Observers in Rangoon said it could take weeks for the government to restore electricity in Rangoon, given the number of poles that had been toppled. Prices on petrol, bottled water, and food had already jumped drastically in Rangoon by Monday.

A bottle of water was selling for 1,000 kyat, compared with 350 kyats last week, while the minimum bus fare had jumped from 50 kyats to 500 kyats in the city, a Rangoon resident said. Last week’s blackmarket rate for the kyat was 1,120 to the dollar.

Also at Global Voices

“Electricity was cut off but, thanks to one of our neighbors who has an electric generator, we could pump water to our room. For those without any generator, water is a big problem. There is still no relief effort from the government agencies, and people are cleaning the roads by themselves.

“Prices of food had risen and the price of building materials has doubled. A few shops opened and many shoppers are trying to buy things. Some super markets opened today, and they have to limit the number of shoppers into the supermarket.

“My friend said it would be very difficult to restore the city into its previous condition, especially electricity and telecommunication as it will cost millions of dollars to repair the entire infrastructure.”

Narinjara reports the Bangladesh meteorological office predict another cylcone for May, but that could come to nothing or its strength and path will not be a danger.

The World Bank issued a statement, which I’m sure has really helped-

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick issued the following statement in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis: “Our sympathy goes out to the thousands of victims of this terrible tragedy in Myanmar. I urge the government in Myanmar to allow relief agencies to reach those in need.”

Burmese blogger Myat Thura does rather better-

Myat Thura:- This is indeed a very sad moment for all Myanmar people. The death toll from Cyclone Nargis rises to more than 22,000 and many thousands are still missing. Millions of people were made homeless with no assess to clean water or food. Many more will die because of infectious diseases. Nearly half the Burmese (Myanmar) population are suffering. I am here in Thailand, in a safe place, but I feel very sad for all those people suffering. They are my people and it hurts me so much. Why our Burmese people have to suffer such kind of hardship? Why us? It is a really hard question to answer. We, all Burmese, should help our own people as much as we could. Any help would be useful for our people. Don’t wait. Don’t hesitate. Try to find out whatever we could do to help our own people.

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