Thursday, May 8, 2008

100,000 Dead and Counting; The Junta Place Elections Before Foreign Aid


The Cyclone that hit Myanmar last week has killed more than first suspected, and I expect more to come as the ruling Junta blocks the United States and other nations from sending foriegn aid and providing airlifts:

YANGON (Reuters) - Desperate survivors cried out for aid on Thursday nearly a week after Cyclone Nargis killed up to 100,000 people, as pressure piled up on Myanmar to throw its doors open to an international relief operation.
The United Nations was able to get in after some delays, but the overt distrust between Junta generals and the U.S. may further prolong aid efforts. Apparently however, the U.S. is not the only country having problems:
The WFP's Risley said aid agencies normally expect to fly in experts and supplies within 48 hours of a disaster, but nearly a week after this cyclone, few international groups have been able to send reinforcements into Myanmar.
The Junta continues to under-exaggerate the loss of life as well.

State media had reported a death toll of 22,980 with 42,119 missing as of Tuesday, but diplomats and disaster experts said the real figure is likely to be much higher.

"The information that we're receiving indicates that there may well be over 100,000 deaths in the delta area," said Shari Villarosa, charge d'affaires of the U.S. embassy in Myanmar.

Whether this is the work of incompetent dictators, or a function of an overinflated ego being faced with its own ineptitude and inadequacy, I cannot say. Probably both, I presume, and I don't know how long it will be before the Burmese people take matters into their own hands. However, some think that the Junta is dropping the ball on foreign aid in order to juggle the referendum coming up this Saturday.

BANGKOK - Disregarding the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar's military rulers are bent on holding a constitutional referendum on Saturday, said to be designed to enhance the junta's grip over the country.

"The relief efforts are being hampered by the junta's obsession with getting the referendum vote over and done with," a Western diplomat based in the former capital Yangon told Inter Press Service (IPS) on condition of anonymity.

[...]

"The government's attitude is that the referendum is the top priority and the cyclone is an inconvenience; we believe any government's priority should be the humanitarian response rather than the referendum," the diplomat said.
And why is that? With the international eye upon them, the Junta want to move quick before their "democracy" game is exposed for the fraud it really is. Most voters have absolutely no clue as to what they are voting on:
Burma News International (BNI) - an umbrella group of more than 10 publications and agencies - which interviewed more than 2,000 voters across the county, before the cyclone struck, produced startling results.

BNI secretary Mu Hlaing Theint told IPS that a two-page questionnaire, to ensure statistical consistency, was used to compile the results from telephone and face-to-face interviews.

Almost seven out of 10 interviewed said they had no idea what was in the constitution. One in four voters had still to make up their minds which way they would vote. So, despite the regime's intensive propaganda campaign there remains a significant number of undecided voters.
Don't worry about the opposition though:
There is no doubt though that the real vote is not going to be announced - it has been rigged from the start. The junta has carried out a concerted campaign of harassing and intimidating voters. "The police called on our family last week and told us we had to vote 'Yes' or we'd go to jail for three years," a middle-aged mother in Yangon said over phone, on condition of anonymity.
In true Junta fashion, they have made sure that the voters don't know what they're voting on, by keeping it available only to those few who actually have money in a country where many live on as little as $2 a day, by overwhelming the public with state-run newspaper propaganda, and by using threat and coercion to drive away those who oppose the Junta's draft constitution, which in the end will change only one thing: it will make permanent and "legitimate" what has been forcibly institutionalized for too long in Burma.


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