Burma Can't Wait
May 5, 2008 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Burma: It Can't Wait is a month-long video campaign by the US Campaign for Burma to raise awareness of the plight of Burma (Myanmar) and Aung San Suu Kyi. There will be one video a day for 30 days from celebrities including Will Ferrel, Sarah Silverman and Eddie Izzard.

But now the political situation in Burma has been overshadowed by a humanitarian catastrophe: a massive cyclone hit Burma on Saturday, killing over 10,000 people. The question now is whether the reclusive military Junta will accept international aid, and what the political ramifications will be if they don't handle this well.
posted by homunculus (57 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Our people are oppressed.
Aung San still not free.
Our country's now a mess.
Please help, Ron Burgundy.
Burma Save.
posted by brianvan at 12:58 PM on May 5, 2008 [9 favorites]

why shmegegge is far too ignorant of world affairs:

the first time he'd heard about what was happening in Burma was when some friend of his made him watch the new Rambo movie.
posted by shmegegge at 12:59 PM on May 5, 2008

scratch that, that was actually the second time. he'd forgotten that aung san suu kyi had been his commencement speaker (via vhs tape smuggled into america) at his graduation from college.
posted by shmegegge at 1:00 PM on May 5, 2008

I really only clicked in here to see if anyone had posted a Burma Shave gag yet. I was not disappointed.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:10 PM on May 5, 2008

Pleased to see you linking to the Irrawaddy which is the best site for ongoing coverage of any Burmese events, and is run from an undisclosed location in Thailand so that it can't be shut down by the junta. Also in the news in Burma these days is the upcoming referendum to approve the junta's farce of a new constitution. The results of this one, however, will be no more representative of the people's wishes than anything else is in Burma: people are showing up to advance polls only to be issued ballots with a "Yes" vote already marked on it. The question remains whether the cyclone will postpone the referendum.
posted by roombythelake at 1:30 PM on May 5, 2008

Sigh. Myanmar/Burma is a lovely country with really nice people. They deserve better, and sadly they probably won't get it for a long time to come.
posted by aramaic at 1:38 PM on May 5, 2008

I'm curious about the coverage of the cyclone: every notice I've heard about cyclone relief aid has been told in a defensive tone directed towards the Junta's politics. It almost sounds, to me, like the international community is going to withhold aid unless things change, and I don't think that is right.

Isn't now a time more for "how can we get your people clean water and shelter over their heads" rather than trying to advance things politically?
posted by cgs at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2008

every notice I've heard about cyclone relief aid has been told in a defensive tone directed towards the Junta's politics. It almost sounds, to me, like the international community is going to withhold aid unless things change, and I don't think that is right.

Frustratingly, the junta are apparently so paranoid, that they're reluctant to let most NGOs into the country. The NGOs have to lobby to be allowed to deliver emergency food & water etc to the people affected by the cyclone.

Which is a terrible shame, as the people there are possibly the loveliest in the world. Overwhelmingly kind, gentle, generous & friendly. Apart from the generals, of course.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:36 PM on May 5, 2008

Laura speaks.
posted by gman at 3:12 PM on May 5, 2008

Thanks for posting this, humunculus.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:21 PM on May 5, 2008


Sorry, I panicked.
posted by The Bellman at 3:53 PM on May 5, 2008

How do I bring 'Burma' into a conversation without dragging everyone into my despair?
posted by zennie at 4:04 PM on May 5, 2008

In addition to The Irrawaddy mentioned above, Mizzima is another good site for Burmese news.

My boyfriend's family live in Rangoon, and he can't reach them by phone or email, since the power is out everywhere. You'd think that a government so efficient at oppressing its citizens might be efficient in other respects, but this doesn't appear to be the case.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:38 PM on May 5, 2008

me & my monkey, reports from Rangoon are that neighbours are out in the streets helping one another and doing what they can to repair damage. I hope you hear from them soon.
posted by roombythelake at 5:31 PM on May 5, 2008

One of my dad's classmates is there now (doing some pretty neat things within the context of what can be done). We assume they're all right, all things considered, but haven't heard definitively at this point.
posted by dhartung at 10:41 PM on May 5, 2008

I'm glad to see people using 'Burma' instead of Myanmar. Why do the media use the junta's name for the country?

Also, this week they were supposed to have some kind of 'referendum' on the military government. A sham, of course, and now the cyclone complicates matters.
posted by annabkr at 5:45 AM on May 6, 2008

Myeah...so...my sister is living outside Yangon at a monastery. Rather concerned about that. Will be sending care package soon, assuming there is still a Shwe Oo Min road in Mingaladon township that it can be delivered to. worry worry
posted by wowbobwow at 6:57 AM on May 6, 2008

Carking hell, now the number is up to 50,000 dead.

posted by wowbobwow at 7:03 AM on May 6, 2008

Wow, what a horror.


Maybe we need a proper FPP on the cyclone -- I'm sure a lot of MeFites would like to keep abreast of ways to help; the situation is such a mess that it will be a while before we'll be able to be effective as individual donors, and this post will have disappeared of the front page by then.

I note that opposition groups are already calling on donors not to give to organizations that will simply funnel the support to the junta. This is going to be a complicated response to organize.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:16 AM on May 6, 2008

This site has very good maps of the areas that were hit, flooding, and relief response. I was able to find the approximate area of where my sister is living using the maps, and was very relieved to see it was in a less hard-hit region. Others with friends and family might want to try this as well, if you are curious.
posted by wowbobwow at 8:43 AM on May 6, 2008

Maybe we need a proper FPP on the cyclone

That's fine with me. This post was originally just meant to be about the video campaign, but then the cyclone hit. The cyclone does deserve a proper FPP, so if the mods don't object, go for it.
posted by homunculus at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2008

* Save the Children is "one of the largest non-governmental organizations at work in Myanmar" and has launched a full scale relief effort. Targeted donation here.

* CARE has/had offices in Yangon that were damaged but the people are ok, have other resources, and are ready to go. Targeted donation here.

* Church World Service is working with the Myanmar Council of Churches on a relief effort. Targeted donation here.

* Myanmar Red Cross is appealing for help via the federation's website and is on the ground. Donate here. Till Myanmar/Burma/Cyclone Nargis is an option just say "Where most needed" under "I would like my contribution to go to:".

* Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières also has teams on the ground and is responding. General donation information here.

* UNICEF is in country and has already provided relief supplies. General donation here.

If you've links to other relief efforts with current on the ground efforts please post them. If donation links don't work please try the other link and navigate the site.
posted by jwells at 12:03 PM on May 6, 2008 [8 favorites]

jwells, mathowie's just added your post to the sideblog on the main page, so hopefully folks will see it and be motivated to help out. It's always easier to give when it's just a click away, with no research required. Thanks for making that happen.
posted by roombythelake at 1:24 PM on May 6, 2008

If you've links to other relief efforts with current on the ground efforts please post them.

World Vision Australia Myanmar cyclone appeal - over 600 staff on the ground.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2008

Just created a Private Relief section on Wikipedia's Cyclone Nargis article with UbuRoivas' post and my own. I don't use Wikipedia much so it probably isn't right but it's a step at least.

Folks, if the tsunami taught us anything it's the power of individuals. We donated so much it forced governments to pay attention and do the same. I understand there are political problems but politics is always a reflection of the situation on the ground. We're changing that as we speak and the politics may even reflect that down the road, but that requires a permanent change on the ground. Sitting around abroad and complaining isn't going to do much of anything.
posted by jwells at 5:38 AM on May 7, 2008

well done, jwells. i don't know if i mentioned it before, but i spent a month in Burma over the xmas period, and outside of the three or four towns you could call cities, the majority of people live in houses made of timber posts, with bamboo lattice screens for walls.

when they talk of a million or more homeless, that is very easy to believe. those houses would never have withstood a cyclone like that. this is especially bad, in that the Irrawaddy delta region is lowlying land, crisscrossed with rivers. transport at the best of times is slow & scarce. even getting food & clean water to these people will be a monumental task.

and the Burmese are easily the most awesome, friendly, gentle people i've encountered, from dozens of countries visited. they deserve so much more than the junta, and to have this happen on top of their existing hardships is just heartbreaking.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:56 AM on May 7, 2008

As the days go by, it seems to me that the survivors are basically doomed. The junta will keep most of the aid bottled up in Thailand, letting a few bits dribble in for photo-ops and distribution to the military. Mark my words, the aid will be largely restricted to major towns and areas close to Thailand; people dying in the middle of the delta won't get a thing.

Kouchner is saying the UN should force aid into the country, but that doesn't seem at all likely.
posted by aramaic at 9:52 AM on May 7, 2008

The aid agency Direct Relief is also already in Burma as well, and are seeking donations to support their medical aid work there. It is one of the two featured charities that Google has up in the "support disaster relief" link.
posted by wowbobwow at 10:33 AM on May 7, 2008

Aung San Suu Kyi Honored
posted by homunculus at 11:28 AM on May 7, 2008

US diplomats are now saying it could be as many as 100,000 dead.
posted by aramaic at 11:45 AM on May 7, 2008

India says it warned Burma about the cyclone...41 times, all the way up until Saturday, just before it hit. Yet still no adequate measures were taken by the junta to alert or evacuate those in the direct path of certain death.

If a parent can be denied the right to take care of their child due to gross criminal negligence causing death, why can't the same happen to a government? I sincerely hope this event makes Burma more porous to external witnesses, so this isolationism and the sort of brutality it covers up can finally be exposed for what it is: criminal cowardice and a crime againt humanity. Damn it.
posted by roombythelake at 12:01 PM on May 7, 2008

Thanks wowbobwow. I'm happy to see Google is gearing up. That link let me establish a targeted donation for UNICEF and add Direct Relief to the Wikipedia list. I alphabetized the list and linked to each group's Wikipedia article since there are so many now.
posted by jwells at 12:11 PM on May 7, 2008

From the article aramaic links to above, which I've just now got to reading, this is the sort of standard of care I was wondering about in my post:

"In 2005, the United Nations recognized the concept of "responsibility to protect" civilians when their governments could or would not do it, even if this meant intervention that violated national sovereignty.

I'm glad to know that such a concept exists and has a name. I'd like to see some high-level discussion of this at the UN. Maybe China and others who stonewalled the Security Council actions last fall will be less able to do so now in the face of such an obviously monumental catastrophe which the junta cared about neither before nor afterward. Political protests last fall exposed the cruelty of the regime, but not its ineptitude and general incompetence and bungling. Seriously, how many administrative hours are being wasted on stupid stuff like posing photo ops with government officials and making sure no photos of monks helping people make it into the press? Why bother with that in the face of what's going on? And why are visas for aid workers being delayed? We can only hope that this cyclone will also put a crack in the junta's facade from which it can't recover.

"But it has been rarely applied."

Well, you know what they say, there's no time like the present...
posted by roombythelake at 12:34 PM on May 7, 2008

Perhaps I'm unduly cynical, but somehow I don't think China will be letting anyone force Burma to do anything, UN declarations notwithstanding.

China shares a border with Burma, they're in deep with the junta, and they've shown time and time again that they are profoundly nervous about ever setting a precedent that would prevent them from crushing their own people when they feel like it.

Look at Darfur. They don't even share the same continent and they won't let anyone intervene. Instead, they've proven brilliantly effective at stalling for time. They'll do the same in Burma.

I suppose Thailand could force their way in, but that doesn't seem especially likely unless their western districts start getting invaded by Burmese refugees in staggering numbers (ie., orders of magnitude more than the current rate of refugees from Burma). Western powers won't do jack with China in the background. Bush will let his wife posture, but that's mostly to burnish his own cred as "humanitarian"; he won't have to worry about actually being called upon to do something. Same with Kouchner -- empty postures to please the folks at home, nothing changes.

As long as everyone dies fast enough that they don't have time to migrate en masse, nobody will do anything except drop in on a village here & there to look good. Maybe weep a little for the cameras, shake their head despairingly, and toss a few packets of rice off the back of a truck.
posted by aramaic at 1:35 PM on May 7, 2008

aramaic, as much as I want to hope otherwise, I think everything you say is most likely true. If my suggestion of intervention seemed optimistic or naive, it wasn't for lack of information on the status quo but rather a surplus of frustration about it. To some extent, I know I'm grasping at straws to suggest that real change may come out of this. It's the same way I grasped at straws last fall during the protests. (You'd think by now I'd learn not to--maybe a couple more huge disasters in the next couple of years will teach me...)

To tell you the truth I'm flailing to come up with a way this country can escape the endless loop to which its government dooms it. Short of the sort of situation you describe, in which the country just collapses under its own decrepitude, I'm not sure how real change can come.
posted by roombythelake at 1:53 PM on May 7, 2008

Oh, there's nothing with optimism. I just happen to think Burma will, as you say, collapse under its own decrepitude.

...it's just gonna take a while to get there, and if those natural gas deposits pan out, it'll take a lot longer. As long as the generals still have natural resources to squander, they won't relax their grip, and nobody is going to force them to.

There's a lot of yuan & baht yet to be extracted. Just check the Dirty List, for example -- and that list doesn't even include any of the Yunnan joint ventures. Not that anyone could really influence them, of course.
posted by aramaic at 2:21 PM on May 7, 2008

Is Aid Reaching Burma?
posted by homunculus at 11:41 AM on May 8, 2008

Related to the links above: China, Indonesia reject France's Myanmar push.

The big regional powers will never support anything that might conceivably be interpreted as allowing humanitarian concerns to trump national sovereignty concerns.
posted by aramaic at 12:41 PM on May 8, 2008

Operation USA is another relief organization working on the ground in Myanmar
posted by flaneuse at 1:30 PM on May 8, 2008

Oh great: NYT says Myanmar is now turning back foreign aid workers, insisting that it will distribute all aid by itself. Apparently they've already confiscated everything the WFP already sent in. Fabulous. I wonder what percentage of aid will actually reach anyone not affiliated with the junta.

Well, I guess a quarter-million people are in line to die then. May as well kiss the delta region goodbye.

No wonder they moved their capital.
posted by aramaic at 5:56 AM on May 9, 2008

Yes, if the capital were still Rangoon, I wonder what would have changed. Probably nothing in terms of relief supplies now--if they won't let aid workers into remote areas, they sure won't let them into a capital city--but I would expect at least a couple extra lives might have been protected as an accidental byproduct of the generals trying to save their own skins.

As it is, though, they evacuated themselves years ago, and for precisely such an occasion. And look! It worked! The government was unharmed! Which is too bad, because we're denied even the pleasure of seeing them struggle to rebuilt itself, or at least undergo even a smidgen of hardship themselves, and because now their geographical isolation only reinforces their moral isolation when dealing with the fates of others.

In addition to the regular xenophobic claptrap, part of the fear this time seems focussed around not wanting witnesses to their botched voting processes. I wonder if more aid will be allowed after the referendum? And how many dead by then, and how much disease will be spread out of control unnecessarily? We'll see how our media and the world leaders handle the fact that the referendum is still going ahead, and the inevitable Yes victory celebrations in the midst of desolation a few hundred kilometres away.

I recant my previous optimism. Turning away planes loaded with food is despicable. I'm so angry I could spit.
posted by roombythelake at 8:45 AM on May 9, 2008

Say you're working at the Myanmar embassy in Thailand. Given that Thailand is closed for a public holiday today, what do you do?

a) Work through it and get a few more visa applications processed, and take your holiday some other time
b) Say "screw it, why should everyone else have all the fun" and kick off for the weekend, leaving the visas till "Monday or Tuesday" to get processed

(hint: the right answer is the one containing a link to a news story)
posted by roombythelake at 12:38 PM on May 9, 2008

Red Cross has a major relief pipeline setup.
Doctor's Without Borders has 3 planes in the air with staff on the ground for the landing.
ShelterBox also has a plane in the air and folks with Visas already.

More locally a lot of orgs were able to shift supplies from safe areas to the areas affected and are paying local businesses to supply them. See International Development Enterprises, Foundation for the people of Burma, and Direct Relief International.

Most other orgs simply can't get in but have funding. I don't know what to think anymore, i.e. if it's best to concentrate on the first three or leave things as they are. This quake in China is a major disaster as well and all I've got left to hope for is that the junta will see how China handles this and look to emulate them.
posted by jwells at 12:04 PM on May 12, 2008

« Older Um, it's pinball promotional videos from the 1990s...   |   RIP Mildred Loving Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments