Posted by: mensab | May 27, 2008

Politicizing and Militarizing Aid to Myanmar

On May 2, cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters that ever hit the earth. It is estimated that the destruction claimed more than 100,000 lives and loss of billions of dollars. It also left millions of victims and survivors homeless. It led to the the international community and various aid agencies came rushing to extend assistance to the people of Myanmar. Unfortunately, they have to pass through the ruling military junta who has been in power for decades.

Due to probably the immensity of the destruction and unpreparedness, the military junta was overwhelmed by the extent of devastation and international pressure to allow foreign aid and workers to alleviate the misery of the hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors. The junta was slow in responding to the needs of its own people. It was also reluctant and selective to let the aid and foreign workers enter the country. As more footages and images taken from the hardest-hit areas of the country surfaced, they made international community including the aid agencies more determined to pressure the military junta to allow aid and foreign workers into the country.

The US, UK and French ships with aid and helicopters that could bring relief goods and medicines to the hard-to-reach areas are eagerly waiting to take action. But the military junta sees the ships as military presence of these countries. The junta feels insecure of the entrance of these war ships into its territory. So it did not give a go-signal to these ships to come ashore. However, it did say that any aid was welcome.

The slow, selectiveness and reluctance of the junta caused those against the rule of the junta to politicize the situation. They blamed the junta of the miserable plight of its own people. It was even hinted that the junta might be committing genocide for denying its own people of the aid they desperately needed at that time. The activists and anti-junta jumped on the unfortunate situation and used it to advance their advocacy against the junta. But the junta stood firm on its decision not to receive any aid from the war ships.

In my view, the US, UK and France should understand that the junta is exercising its prerogative to allow or not anyone and anything into its country as a sovereign state. What should have been done by international aid agencies were to ask these warships to unload their goods and give them to accredited organizations that were allowed to operate in the country. This was if they were really sincere of helping the victims of the powerful cyclone. Instead of using the aid for political propaganda and goal, the goods could have been just given to several organizations that were already in the area. I saw there was no need for politicizing the situation because the people were suffering and even dying each day that they withhold those aid.


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