I just wanted to blog a bit about the cyclone that hit Myanmar this past weekend. I've received a few emails checking on how we are doing, and I appreciate it.
As you've undoubtedly heard, a cyclone struck Myanmar this past weekend. I've read estimates putting the dead at 15,000 or 22,000 people. The exact number is not known, and will likely continue to grow. The electricity in the capital city of 6.5 million has been off for four days, and flooding and storms continue to ravage the area hit by the cyclone. Some predict that the aftermath may kill more than the storm itself.
Some of the media coverage has led to some confusion. Myanmar is not part of Thailand. I read one article on the internet where the person clearly thought that Myanmar was a city in Thailand. It is not. Myanmar is a neighbor to Thailand's west, and they share quite a long border. While the cyclone apparently hit Thailand too, it did not have near the devastation here. I'm not sure if there have been any casualties in Thailand from the storm.
There are probably a few reasons for the confusion. Myanmar was formerly named Burma. The military junta changed the name in 1989, although the opposition in Burma continue to call it Burma. While that was nearly 20 years ago, I think a lot of people may not have heard of the country named Myanmar. I didn't realize it until my trip here.
Another reason is that most of the reporting seems to be out of Thailand. The dateline on articles is often Bangkok, Thailand, and sources in Thailand are often quoted in the articles. Due to the suppression of the free press by the military junta, I doubt there were a lot of Western journalist stationed out of Myanmar. The closest place where you could probably find knowledgable people is here in Thailand.
It will be interesting to see what aid the military junta accepts from the United States. The leaders of Myanmar have accused the U.S. of wanting to overthrow their unelected government. Most believe that they will refuse the U.S.'s offer of the assistance of naval resources to help in the rescue and recovery efforts.
Thailand will probably play a pretty significant role in the relief efforts. Despite the fact that Thailand is a democracy (a deeply flawed one, but compared with its neighbors, an absolute brilliant beacon of freedom) and Myanmar an oppressive military dictatorship, the two countries have a cordial relationship. They are neighbors and important trading partners to each other. And lest we forget, its not like Thailand is a stranger to military dictatorships itself.