10 May 2008

Burma's Leaders Play Politics With Disaster

Government Clings to Military Power

Today the Myanmar government broadcast a message to its citizens - but it was not about the 1.5 million Burmese clinging to life, the victims of Cyclone Nargis who have no food, no water, no place to sleep. It was not about the international aid workers blocked from entering the country, humanitarians who might be the only line of defense against widespread disease that creates a second wave of death and catastrophe.
Instead, the bulletin discussed a countrywide referendum to be held Saturday that critics say is an attempt to entrench the military's power.
The message, delivered on state television, did not even mention the storm that blew into the country Saturday, flooding thousands of square miles of land.

Government Discourages Foreign Aid Workers

Those who survived the storm are still largely left to fend for themselves.
Their government continues to refuse to allow most foreign aid workers to help them, although the regime said today that it would welcome foreign aid - as long as it came in without accompanying workers.
"It's critical. If we don't get large quantities of relief in time, and the experts who need to come with that aid, there could be a second wave of disaster, and it could be just as serious as the effects of the cyclone itself," Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the U.N. humanitarian relief office, told ABC News.
The United Nations says it has reached 276,000 people in Yangon and the Irrawaddy Delta, the region hardest hit by the cyclone's 120 mph winds. But that is only one out of every seven people who are in desperate need of aid.
"If it takes another few days to reach another 276,000 people, it's going to be too late," Horsey said. "We don't have that much time."

Read the whole article on Truth Out