This Is Not The Time For Paranoia And Frustration

By Alex Magno
Philippine Star
Originally Published: May 8, 2008

A few days ago, a fierce tropical cyclone hit Burma. According to Burmese state television, the death toll has climbed up to 22,000. About 41,000 are missing. A million people are homeless and basically scrounging for food and water.

The chilling possibility is that those figures might be understated.

Five regions bordering the flooded river delta around Rangoon have been declared a calamity zone. Much of the antiquated infrastructure in this premiere area of the country has been devastated. Numerous towns and communities are inaccessible. The full scale of the tragedy has yet to be received.

The whole country is inaccessible.

UN relief workers being rushed to bring humanitarian assistance to the battered country are sitting around, waiting for visas to be issued by a regime that is extremely suspicious of foreigners. It will be recalled that in the wake of the great tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean a few years ago, the regime in Rangoon did issue a call for international assistance.

The world wants to help. But the paranoid military rulers of this unfortunate nation are not quite ready to open up to a flow of assistance and assisters.

What little we have seen of the extent of the devastation, via amateur videos sent out of Rangoon, is appalling. Houses have been torn down. Bridges have collapsed. A large area is under water. Power is down, along with telephone service.

It is easy to anticipate that — with so many malnourished people sloshing about in the floods, without homes to return to and with little food available — the scale of this tragedy could only grow larger. An epidemic could break out. The ill could not receive medical attention. The injured could die.

The regime is not prepared to deal with a tragedy of this scale.

A military junta, unsupported by its own people and, only recently, engaged in a bloody crackdown of pro-democracy movements, has long failed to build up the institutions that will enable communities to deal with calamities better...

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Read also, "Myanmar Junta Still Blocking Much Cyclone Aid" by The New York Times

If only the leaders of Burma would soften their hearts to the immensity of the humanitarian needs resulting from the enormous destruction that the cyclone brought about and put aside whatever ill-feelings they may have towards some of the nations who are offering them help, they would have a better opportunity of reconciliation with their people and clearing out misunderstandings with other nations.

They can turn this disaster into a God-given opportunity if they would hearken to the voice of the good spirit within themselves. This is not the time for them to be paranoid and cynical about receiving aid and help.

Nations who are offering aid and extending help to Burma should be patient enough in dealing with the leaders of this severely devastated country. They should not make themselves appear like knights in shining armors. Surely Burma's leaders are confused and totally overwhelmed by the scope of the tasks to be done to lift up its country back on its feet. This is not the time to criticize them of their failures in governance, but rather, leaders from the international community should use persuasion instead of intimidation.

If the Burmese leadership is not yet ready to accept help from some nations, then those nations should channel their aid supplies to other nations who are friends of Burma's leaders. Ask them how should they be helped and find ways to help the Burmese leadership save face before the international community amidst this great devastation. What is most important is that, at the end of the day, aid supplies are actually reaching the people. This should not be the time for inappropriate efforts that are born out of frustration.