Bush talks about Burma

Hail to the Chief.  Thank you Mr. Bush for taking leadership in confronting China’s proping up of Burma’s illegal and brutal dictatorship.  I may disagree with you on most of your priorities but I appreciate your work for the Burmese people.

From our friends at US Campaign for Burma:

President and First Lady Visit Burma
Dissidents and Refugees in Thailand

Dear friends,

We wanted to let you know some good news.  President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush just visited Burmese human rights activists in Thailand, 24 hours before they head to Beijing Olympics. The First Lady also made a special trip to refugee camps on the Thailand-Burma border to meet with some of the millions of refugees who have fled Burma’s military dictatorship.

One of our co-founders, Aung Din, today published an opinion article in the Irrawaddy magazine about President Bush’s trip and China’s role in propping up Burma’s dictators.

Burma is an issue in the United States that crosses the fault lines of political parties. We are very glad that Democrats and Republicans have worked together to press for change in Burma.

We very much hope that President Bush, after his meetings, will pressure China to make changes in its policy toward Burma. China is the most important ally of Burma’s dictator Than Shwe, providing him billions in weapons and assistance while blocking the United Nations from .

Despite having to face both the dictator Than Shwe and China, Burmese human rights activists continue to stand strongly in their struggle for democracy. Inside the country they are preparing for the 20th anniversary of the largest uprising in Burma’s history.  Even as the military has put its soldiers on alert, in the last few days dissidents inside Burma have been secretly spray-painting the color red all over the country’s major cities — the color is a symbol of democracy and change in Burma.  We salute their courage and bravery and pledge to re-double our own efforts here in the United States and internationally.

Thank you for supporting the people of Burma in their struggle for human rights!

Sincerely,

Aung Din, Jeremy Woodrum, Jennifer Quigley, Thelma Young, Jacqui Pilch

ACT NOW: SAVE BURMA

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. – Edmund Burke


No Time Left for Diplomatic Options: Sein Win


By LALIT K JHA Thursday, May 22, 2008

With the lives of people at stake in the Irrawaddy delta, the Burmese prime minister in exile tells US congressmen there is no time left to pursue diplomatic options with the junta.

“As a citizen of Burma and an elected representative, I want to stress that, pursuing diplomatic options to convince an intransigent regime like the Burma generals, is like waiting for people to die and time is something that the people of Burma do not have,” Sein Win told US lawmakers during congressional testimony.

“Please help Burma now,” the prime minister in exile pleaded, during a hearing on the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment.

He urged the United States to reject the outcome of the Burmese referendum and the draft constitution, saying it was methodically manipulated by the military.

“The situation is totally unacceptable, and it must not be allowed to continue. We are, therefore, calling on the United States and all nations to do everything they can to start massive relief operations immediately,” he said.

Arguing that given that an impoverished country like Burma now needs a long-term recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction program, Sein Win said there is all the more need of a transparent and responsible form of government responsive to the needs of the people. “Democratic transition is the only solution for our country to overcome the challenges lying ahead,” he said.

Even though more than 100,000 people have died or are missing and nearly 2 million people are directly suffering from the effects of the cyclone, he said the military junta has done very little to help the people. “Its main focus since the cyclone is to hold a national referendum so that a constitution it had written to legitimize military rule would pass,” Win said.

At the same time, it is also preventing the international community from entering the country because of a fear of the presence of international relief workers, he said, and the generals’ short-sighted policy has worsened the situation for the cyclone victims.

He said an international NGO working inside Burma estimated that 30,000 children are starving and many children who were already acutely malnourished when the cyclone hit, might be dying now from the lack of food.

Win said the Burmese generals resist international aid and workers inside the country because they are afraid that Burma’s real situation would be exposed.

“What they are afraid is they will lose the control, and that’s why they are now reacting in this way. So they not only deny the United States access, but also the United Nations and even Asean until pressure was put on them.

Reiterating the government in exile was not asking for regime change, he said: “That we have to do ourselves. And we will do everything we can to do that, but we want the US and UN and all international community to keep up their strong stand—morally, politically—and help us. But we will do our work, of course. We don’t ask the United States to go in and change the regime.”

Burmese Officials Skimming Cyclone Aid

http://www.irrawaddy.org/print_article.php?art_id=11981


By VIOLET CHO Monday, May 12, 2008

Burmese military officers and village heads are stealing relief supplies in many areas following Cyclone Nargis, according to Rangoon sources.

Sardines, clothe, high energy biscuits and other relief aid sent to the survivors of the cyclone are being sold at markets, shops and even teashops, said a cyclone survivor..

Burmese line up to receive free rice on the outskirts of Rangoon on Monday. (Photo: AP)

Meanwhile, in Kawhmu, southwest of Rangoon Division, cyclone victims still have not received any relief aid. A Kawhmu resident, now in Rangoon, told the The Irrawaddy that “local officers and our villager headman only distributed about 30 percent of the aid to the people, and they kept 70 percent.”Such reports underscore the importance of the dispute over the past week between the military regime and international relief agencies, who say they must have their own staff on the ground to oversea aid distribution. However, the junta is still saying it will not let foreign aid workers into Burma and will handle aid distribution itself.

According to a Rangoon-based journalist, citizens are not allowed to deliver aid supplies themselves and must give their donations to members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association or local firefighters.

“People who collect the relief supplies are using the items and eating food that is meant for survivors,” he said.

Rangoon children line up to receive rice after Cyclone Nargis.
(Photo: AP)

A Rangoon resident said, “The donations from the authorities are just for propaganda and to show off. The authorities took relief supplies back with them after they shot video in Hlaing Tharyar and Shwe Pyi Thar townships.”A local World Vision office in Thanlyin Township in Rangoon asked for permission from local authorities to hand out rice, and was told to donate 10 bags of rice to the authorities to be able to give rice to the people, said a staff member of World Vision.

Meanwhile, the authorities have allowed some wealthy citizens and movie stars to pass out aid, but prevented some private citizens for political reasons.

One example, Kyaw Thu, a movie star and well-known supporter of the demonstrations led by monks in September of last year, was harassed by thugs carrying knives and clubs when he tried to distribute rice to people in Thanlyin Thowship in Rangoon.

Kyaw Thu is also chairman of a social welfare association, the Free Funeral Services Society, which helps people who can not afford funerals for their family members.

Burma Crisis – Day 9

The BBC reported today:

The official death toll has risen to almost 32,000, with close to another 30,000 missing.

But aid agencies fear 1.5m could die if help does not come, and estimate that 100,000 have already perished.

An official from Save the Children in Burma told the BBC that about half the people affected by the cyclone were receiving help.

This is quickly turning in genocidal proportions.  It’s time for China to stop protecting the Burmese military and for the rest of the world to help the hundreds of thousands who are suffering.

From the US Campaign for Burma:

France’s foreign minister Bernard Kouchner (a founder of Doctors Without Borders) proposed a solution to this problem. He urged the UN Security Council — the only body at the UN that can pass binding resolutions, to take action that would allow the international community to send aid to Burma whether the Burmese regime likes it or not.

And when France thinks the best solution is an invasion it must be a desperate scene.

The Alliance of Burmese Monks and Student Activists and opponents to the regime have issued this statement (and have put their lives at risk in so doing):

Joint Statement of All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and All Burma Federation of Student Unions
May 9, 2008

The Military Junta’s Sham Constitution Rejected
International Humanitarian Intervention Requested

(1) It is obvious that the SPDC (State Peace and Development Council), official name of the military junta that has ruled the country of Burma illegally for many years with arms and threats, oppresses and kills the people of Burma who demand democracy and human rights peacefully, by using not only its military power, but also natural disaster.

(2) Knowing in advance that the dangerous and strong Cyclone Nargis was coming, the military junta failed to provide sufficient warning and suggest preparation to the people of Burma. Hence, when Cyclone Nargis attacked, hundreds of thousands of people were killed and millions became homeless in states and divisions of Rangoon, Bago (Pegu), Irrawaddy, Karen and Mon. If there were sufficient warnings, serious preparations and systematic evacuations earlier, the number of deaths and damages would be much less.

(3) In the aftermath of the Cyclone attack, the military junta continues to not provide sufficient assistance to the victims. People are facing the potential danger of more and more deaths because of the junta’s inability to remove the rotted bodies quickly, a lack of drinking water and food, and impending deadly diseases. However, we are witnessing sadly that the military junta does not help the victims effectively and it even blocks assistance generously offered by the international community.

(4) While nearly half of the total population in Burma is suffering through this national tragedy, instead of putting all resources toward saving the lives of the victims, the military junta is concentrating on legalizing military rule in Burma forever through a sham constitutional referendum, scheduled for tomorrow, May 10, 2008.

(5) Therefore, we would like to urge the people of Burma, from all walks of life, to object to the military junta, which rules the country against the will of the people, neglects the welfare of the people and focuses only on holding on to its power, by marking a (X) mark on the ballot paper decisively in the referendum.

(6) To save thousands of lives before it’s too late, we would like to urge the United Nations and foreign governments to intervene in Burma immediately to provide humanitarian and relief assistance directly to the people of Burma, without waiting for the permission of the military junta, with a decision made by the UN Security Council or individual country.

All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and All Burma Federation of Student Unions

Campaign for Burma – Please Help!

The death toll from the cyclone that hit Burma keeps rising. Some estimates say it could reach 10,000 to 15,000. But that number though staggering pales in comparison to the deaths and suffering inflicted by the military upon it’s own people. The people of Burma need our help. You can help.

Go to uscampaignforburma.org for more information.

For a harrowing look at what’s really going on inside Burma you have to watch this documentary from the BBC. Warning it is graphic and disturbing.

I’ve found that the BBC gives provides a greater depth of reporting on Burma than our US media outlets. For more on what’s really going on inside Burma:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/default.stm

http://www.hillerphoto.com/burma/index.htm

http://www.freeburmarangers.org/Resources/Links/

http://www.prayforburma.org/