Cyclone Giri Photos

Arakan’s Woes

Posted by ေက်ာက္ၿဖဴသားေခ် Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Last week, the regime staged a lavish ceremony to welcome a white elephant to Naypyidaw. Snr-Gen Than Shwe himself was on hand to feed the elephant. The people in cyclone-hit Arakan State should be so luck.  
Burma now has five white elephants, almost all captured in Arakan State. The latest white elephant will bring prosperity, peace and good luck to the nation, said the generals.
However, the people in Arakan State are not so lucky, and they are now suffering. On Friday when Cyclone Giri struck, 26 people died and thousands were left homeless, according to preliminary estimates.
Many villages were washed away in the storm, and the damage to property and infrastructure will be large. The full extent of damage will not be known until later this week.
But will we ever really know, given that the media is heavily censored whenever natural disasters hit the nation?
Of course, political news is always censored too. The category III cyclone slammed into Burma's lower coast 16 days ahead of the country's general election.
Like in the past, monks, students and private donors will come to the aid of local residents, while regime officials ponder how to respond.
There have been no reports of senior regime officials organizing or taking part in a relief effort.
On Sunday, two days after the cyclone struck, a ceremony to mark the 65th Anniversary of United Nations Day was held at Myanmar [Burma] International Convention Centre In Naypyidaw.
Prime Minister U Thein Sein, who is also head of the regime Union Solidarity Development Party, mentioned Cyclone Nargis that struck lower Burma in 2008.
“After Cyclone Nargis, we have managed to overcome the emergency situation with assistance from the UN, Asean and the international community. We have successfully managed to rehabilitate the cyclone affected areas,” he said.
He made no mention of Cyclone Giri, the dead, the scope of the disaster or whatever, if any, relief effort the state would launch.
Also on Sunday, according to Rangoon sources, Prime Minister Thein Sein made no response when the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Rangoon, Bishow Parajuli, told him that the international community was ready and willing to help the cyclone victims.
Sources said the UN's international staff and international NGO staff are being prevented from entering the cyclone-affected areas and are restricted to Sittwe, the state's capital.
“Only the local staff are allowed to go to all the affected areas. International staff need special traveling permits,” sources said.
Like Cyclone Nargis, the warning given to local residents before the storm was irresponsibly slow. Throughout the past week, the official Burmese meteorology department repeatedly denied the reports of an approaching storm, trying to assuage public fears.
The generals who ordered the capture of the white elephants in Arakan State have little understanding of the calamity and suffering of the people there, a region that has long distrusted the regime.
The generals' lack of concern for the people's welfare, the slowness of emergency aid and the shortcomings of the public warning system will surely lead the victims to take some revenge and punish the regime's USDP party in the upcoming election.

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