Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cyclone Aid

As the details of the havoc and death left in the wake of the cyclone that recently hit Myanmar (Burma), people and countries around the world are looking to help. There have been pledges of money, supplies, and even personnel trained to handle these type of catastrophes.

One of the big obstacles is the Myanmar government. There are emergency personnel waiting to enter with supplies who are waiting to get visas approved. So far the government has not been inclined to waive or expedite visas in order to help its own people. While there are apparently some supplies already in country, those will quickly be exhausted leaving the victims of the storm in more peril.

France has actually floated the idea of a U.N. resolution to allow aid workers to enter Myanmar without visas. They would invoke a "responsibility to protect" clause of the U.N. charter. Presumably, if such measures were taken, the Myanmar government would not forcibly resist such aid. Hopefully it doesn't come to that, and that the Myanmar government doesn't have complete disregard for all of its people. Their past behavior gives one pause, however.

Interestingly, the government had previously scheduled a referendum on a proposed constitution on May 10th. This proposed constitution was written by the military junta, and will do little to reduce its power or provide more freedom to the people of Myanmar. The government has decided to proceed with the vote, except in the areas hit hard by the cyclone. Its really sad to see that it is going to devote at least part of its attention to this sham referendum when so many of its people are suffering.

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