(10 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)
“I’m quite confident we will be able to overcome this tragedy. I’ve tried to bring a message of hope to your people,” Ban said earlier as he made an offering at the country’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Shwedagon Pagoda.
“At the same time, I hope your people and government can coordinate the flow of aid, so the aid work can be done in a more systematic and organised way,” said Ban.
“The United Nations and the whole international community stand ready to help you overcome this tragedy.”
Meanwhile pressure is building on the military regime to do far more to help the victims of the cyclone, and not all of the pressure is coming from outside the country:
The BBC also reports that people in Myanmar are frustrated by the military junta’s handling of the crisis so far:
In a sign of frustrations being felt within Burma, some students have threatened strikes and protests if more help is not accepted from wherever it is offered, says our correspondent.
“The young people, all of the people, they are very angry,” one student told our correspondent.
Another man told him: “Whether the military government gives permission or not, we want the US and French to help us.”
The article states that the BBC correspondent cannot be named “for security reasons”.
Buddhist monks outside the country are calling the junta’s blocking of foreign aid a crime against humanity:
“The situation is very terrible. Over 200,000 have died and over two million people are at risk of starvation,” said Ashin Nayaka, a monk from Myanmar who lives in the United States.
“By delaying international aid, the junta is committing crimes against humanity,” the maroon-robed monk told Reuters, adding that a single day’s delay in aid cost hundreds of lives.
The monks are asking the Indonesian government to back a UN resolution which would force the military junta to accept foreign aid under the UN’s “responsibility to protect” clause.
Relief agencies are also pushing to get more aid into the country at a quicker pace than the military leaders have allowed to date:
Jemilah Mahmood, president of humanitarian group Mercy Malaysia, said only 25 percent of those in need had received international aid.
“That’s not good enough,” she told a a press conference in Bangkok.
“There needs to be more equipment, there needs to be more flights coming in. there needs to be more boats out there to reach the more remote areas.”
“A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Myanmar,” said Sarah Ireland, regional director for British aid group Oxfam.
“The aid bridge that ASEAN has begun to create into Myanmar must rapidly become a highway wide enough to meet the needs of the people in the hardest hit areas,” she added.
The New York Times quotes David Steinberg of George Washington University regarding the motives of the military junta:
He said the motives and methods of the junta have not changed over the years. When it is under pressure, the junta offers promises and calibrated concessions, but holds its ground.
“The overwhelming motive is to keep power,” Mr. Steinberg said, “and in order to do that you take off bits and pieces of pressure as you see the need. But you don’t help people if you are going to jeopardize your superior role.”
That, combined with the military leaders’s constant fear of an invasion by the United States under the banner of regime change makes UN Secretary General Ban’s visit with the country’s leaders over the following days even more difficult, and important, as he attempts to find a working solution that will allow enough aid to flow in while at the same time not alienating the military leaders. If the military junta does try to decrease the flow of aid that, in turn, could lend more support to those voices calling for a UN resolution which would compel the leaders to accept aid, by force if necessary.
And adding violence into the mix of starvation and disease is not necessarily the best way to help the people on the ground who are still suffering days after the cyclone hit.
Please keep UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, the people of Burma and the victims of the earthquake in China in your thoughts, prayers and meditations.