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May 07, 2008

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Doctors Without Borders is already in the country, so may face fewer barriers than other NGOs.

I wonder if the Burmese junta is going to swallow their pride and allow the US Navy to help out with relief. Seeing their track record, probably not, which is a real tragedy for the people suffering.

Save The Children Fund is also in Burma already. So are Merlin, the Red Cross, and CARE. DEC have launched an appeal to help them but it is probably more feasible for people in the US to donate directly.


DEC

I have the feeling that now the Burmese army is getting all they want to eat.

"I wonder if the Burmese junta is going to swallow their pride and allow the US Navy to help out with relief. Seeing their track record, probably not, which is a real tragedy for the people suffering."

I always find that when dealing with a troublesome friend, or acquaintance, or stranger, all problems are smoothed away as soon as I call a press conference to call the person "very paranoid."

That usually relaxes them, and makes all their concerns, however crazy, go away.

More people should try this technique, don't you think? It's so effective at achieving humanitarian ends.

But if you disagree, you're probably just very paranoid. See, don't you feel warmer towards me now?

Oh, wait, I forgot to call a press conference. Because it's most important, in diplomacy, to call people names in public. That's the key to truly effective diplomacy!

Gary,

I don't understand what you are talking about. I'm sorry. I'm actually a terribly paranoid person, but I'm not a diplomat. Was there a press conference recently and was I there?

Thanks to Doctor Science for the MsF link. From it:

What are the main priorities?

Food, shelter and access to clean water are critical. The population affected by this cyclone was already vulnerable. They now live in extremely precarious conditions, without food or clean water, often sleeping outside. In addition, malaria and dengue fever are prevalent in this area. We’re planning a mosquito net distribution in the coming days.

What are the difficulties you face in the delivery of aid?

We haven’t encountered any problems or restrictions in doing our assessments or initial distributions. We are continuing to bring emergency relief assistance to the people affected and will extend our assessments. However it is clear today that with the limited means we have, both in terms of human resources and material, we are not currently able to adequately respond to the needs of the population. Following the government’s appeal for international assistance, it is essential that emergency visas are issued and that relief shipments are allowed to arrive. Additional MSF teams have been on standby for 48 hours, waiting for visas, to come to help us in the Delta.

There is a need for boats, the only way to reach many flooded areas. MsF is looking into buying them. In the face of a disaster of this scale, I hope our own government can be flexible about making resources available to other governments and organizations that are permitted in.

@LT Nixon:

The link you posted in your comment reports that the charge d'affaires at the U.S. embassy in Yangon referred to "the very paranoid regime" in a conference call to the press.

Gary was responding to that. I understood his point to be that the U.S. government is not doing all it could to avoid placing obstacles in the way of the Myanmar government's allowing foreign governments to provide aid.

Nell,

Thanks for the clarification!

The satellite picture of flooded Burma could have been pulled right out of "An Inconvenient Truth."
Predictions are for more frequent, more intense storms which will affect the most vulnerable: poor people living in low-lying nations.
It will be instructive to see if the waters recede entirely, or if Burma has a new, globally warmed coastline.

Not that Myanmar has a government you'd fall in love with but I get the feeling there is a beat up going on.

The embassy in Thailand was unfortunately closed do to a (Thai) holiday - so the visa issue was predictable. I guess the aid workers (and journalists) probably didn't think it through very well. And do the Americans really have to accompany the aid? can't they just send some trustworthy Thai?

"I don't understand what you are talking about. I'm sorry"

I assumed you read the article you linked to and directed us to. Apologies for my error.

At Daily Kos, a Burmese man in the U.S. reports on a channel of aid that may offer a way of circumventing the obstacles the Myanmar government is putting in the way of foreign governments and NGOs.

Checks can be made payable to:
The Myanmar American Medical Education Society, Inc.
MEMO: Emergency Relief Fund

and mailed to:
Myanmar American Medical Education Society
128 Mott Street, Suite 302
New York, NY 10013

The group is an

...organization of [Burmese] medical doctors doing well in the States. Well enough that they would not need to abuse the funds. All the members have close family members and strong ties in Burma. Most of them still [go] there often and [call] home weekly. Also NONE of the members are paid anything as far as salary...

If you donate, what will happen with your money is,

a. it'll be taken back to Burma by a member or members of the society.

b. it'll be converted to local currency at current market rate of ~ 1100 Kyats per USD (not at government's ~ 7 Kyats per USD).

c. supplies (food, medical, clothing) will be bought by the local people knowledgeable enough about the price/market/condition. Not at inflated prices on inappropriate items.

Ah, know we know what the holdup was. Must have taken a while to print the stickers to identify the foreign aid as coming from the Burmese government.

A short op-ed by the Vice President of the Asia Society and PSA Co-Chair, Jamie Metzl on the situation in Burma....

"As you all know, the crisis in Burma is transforming from a natural disaster to a humanitarian catastrophe due to the xenophobia, incompetence, and malevolence of the Burmese government. With every day that passes, the situation of the up to tow million Burmese people affected by this crisis, almost three quarters of whom have reportedly not received any assistance, is becoming ever more precarious. It is clear that the time has come for bold international action. My colleague, Brian Vogt, wrote an excellent piece detailing one strategy for getting aid through to those who need it earlier this week. Brian is quite right to warn that we must not to allow our disgust for the Burmese junta lead us to political posturing rather than decisive action.
Although the Chinese government stated last week that they did not think it appropriate for the Burma crisis to be brought to the UN Security Council, it is becoming increasingly clear that stronger action by the UN and the international community will be required to break this deadly impasse. French Prime Minister Bernard Kouchner was among the first to call for aid drops in Burma, even against the wishes of the Burmese regime. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now calling for a UN summit on aid to Burma. The United States must continue to take a lead in these efforts, and to build international consensus around a more aggressive assistance agenda with the greatest amount of international legitimacy possible. Clearly, food and aid drops will not be enough as water-borne diseases begin to take their toll over the coming days, particularly on the young and the elderly. Specifically, the United States can actively support the provision of assistance under chapter 7 of the UN Charter, as was done for Somalia and other recent humanitarian crises."

For more on Burma from PSA, please go to www.acrosstheaisle.org

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