Wednesday, March 4, 2009

30-5-2008 Speech at SI - Burma in the Aftermath of Cyclone Nargis

Burma in the Aftermath of Cyclone Nargis:
Death, Displacement, and Humanitarian Aid

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Please allow me to express my sincere gratitude to the SI Asia-Pacific Committee for allowing me. Burma is facing a national calamity of an unprecedented nature in its modern history. The whole country and the people of Burma overseas are mourning for the millions of people affected by Cyclone Nargis when the storm hit the densely populated areas in Lower Burma on 2-3 May. The cyclone killed over 100,000 and ravaged more than a million homes, over 100,000 acres of rice-farms, and infrastructures leaving a lasting imprint of destruction which will take months, if not years, for 2.4 millions of survivors to recover from.

The five regions struck by cyclone are predominantly agriculture zones where agriculture families producing 65 percent of the country's rice are living. Burma will be subjected to the risk of famine if the agriculture system is not restored soon.

Even under such circumstances, the Burmese military junta has done very little to help the people. Its main focus since the cyclone had been to hold a national referendum so that a constitution it had written to legitimize military rule would pass. It has done it. The Burmese generals' short-sighted policy has worsened the situation for the cyclone victims. It will not be a natural disaster but the xenophobic Burmese generals who will be responsible for killing them this time. The situation is totally unacceptable and it must not be allowed to continue.

ASEAN countries have formed a regional task force to distribute foreign aid and that medical teams from ASEAN will be working in Burma. Lest people have forgotten, let me remind them that when the last Tsunami struck Southeast Asia, it was international experts that ASEAN nations had to invite for the relief and rehabilitation operations. In other words, ASEAN alone cannot help our cyclone victims and Burma needs international relief officials with the right expertise to cope with the challenges.

We are, therefore, calling on all donor nations to do everything they can to start massive relief operations immediately. The leading political party -- the National League for Democracy -- and elected representatives in Burma who are witnessing the calamitous situation have also called for immediate relief for the cyclone victims.

As a citizen of Burma, and an elected representative, I want to stress that pursing diplomatic options to convince an intransigent regime like the Burmese generals is like waiting for people to die and time is something that the people of Burma do not have. UN General Secretary’s efforts seem do not enough. Let me speak blunt, Burmese people believe Ban Ki-moon was bullied by the junta.

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