Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Junta Claims Things Peachy As Another Cyclone Forms Off Coast

UN meteorologists have announced that another cyclone is forming in the vicinity of Burma, which means bad news not only for the Burmese people, but for the sputtering relief efforts. The track for this storm appears to be similar to that of Cyclone Nargis, which has likely killed upwards of 100,000 in the country.

The junta claims that not only are things under control, but that there are no outbreaks of disease or starvation among the survivors.
The U.S. military's Joint Typhoon Warning Centre said there was a good chance "a significant tropical cyclone" would form within the next 24 hours and head across the Irrawaddy delta area.

The threat comes as Thailand's Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, returned from Burma last night to report that the country believes its cyclone relief operations are under control and it doesn't need foreign experts.

Mr Sundaravej said Myanmar's ruling junta gave him its "guarantee" that there were no disease outbreaks and no starvation among survivors of devastating Cyclone Nargis. Cyclone Nargis pulverised the delta on May 3, leaving at least 34,270 dead and 27,830 missing, according to the government.
Let's just say that no one other than the junta is buying that nonsense.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants to hold a UN summit on Burma aid. Good luck with that - not only will the UN be incapable of reaching consensus on what to do, but if they do, they still have to deal with a junta that could care less about what happens to the citizens of its country. Brown isn't alone in appealing to the UN to do something. Canadian leaders are also pushing the UN to force Burma's junta to allow greater humanitarian relief efforts to occur. That's on top of France's efforts to try and get the Security Council to act:
France last week urged the Security Council to invoke the responsibility to protect doctrine, known as R2P, to force the delivery of aid over the objections of Burma's ruling generals. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a man Mr. Bernier regularly refers to as a friend and with whom he recently travelled to Afghanistan, put forth the proposal.

But other countries, led by Britain, argued that the doctrine was inappropriate and was meant to prevent genocide, not for use in times of natural disasters.

France has now reportedly considered asking the council to endorse a non-binding resolution that would ask the country's rulers to allow more foreign aid workers entry. The opening of such a humanitarian corridor for aid would not be as invasive as invoking the responsibility to protect doctrine.

In Ottawa, Mr. Bernier said he has had discussions with "my Chinese counterpart, my French counterpart and also with other members of the international community to see that Canadian aid can get there, to help the people in Burma."
France's position is an interesting one - in that one could argue that the junta is engaging in genocide by failing to provide humanitarian aid to those in need. The junta figures that the cyclone is doing more to eliminate its opponents than they could have done with their usual repressive tactics.

While it would appear to most people that the junta is acting irrationally, they are most rational about the one thing that matters most to them - holding on to power at all costs.

UPDATE:
Aid groups are claiming that the junta is now stealing, diverting or otherwise preventing aid going to those who need it.
The aid directors in Myanmar declined to be quoted directly on their concerns about the stolen relief supplies for fear of angering the ruling junta and jeopardizing their operations, although Marcel Wagner, country director of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, confirmed that aid was being diverted by the army. He said the issue would become an increasing problem, although he declined to give further details because of the sensitivity of the situation.

International aid shipments continued to arrive Wednesday, including five new air deliveries of relief supplies from the United States. Western diplomats said their representatives at the airport were making sure the cargo was unloaded efficiently and then trucked to staging areas.

The fate of the supplies after that, however, remained unknown, because the junta has barred all foreigners, including credentialed diplomats and aid workers, from accompanying any donated aid, tracking its distribution or following up on its delivery.
UPDATE:
The International Red Cross reports that the death toll in Burma could top 127,000.

UPDATE:
The UN considers more than 2.5 million people at risk due to the cyclone and resulting damage in Burma, an increase of 1 million over earlier estimates. I wouldn't be surprised if the junta wouldn't be sorry if they died - less opposition to deal with.