Perhaps the two most significant features of the human rights landscape in Burma during 2008 were the morally bankrupt and blatantly repressive response of the country’s military regime to the Cyclone Nargis disaster in May, and the continued detaining, charging and sentencing of persons involved in last September’s nationwide protests far beyond the standards of not only international but also domestic law.
WORLD’S WORST RESPONSE TO A NATURAL DISASTER
The world was stunned when in the weeks after Cyclone Nargis swept through lower Burma on 2 and 3 May 2008, bringing in its wake a tidal wave that submerged vast areas of the delta region and took with it what will ultimately be an untold number of lives, the country’s military regime responded in the only way that it knows fit, with further gross repression and violence. The effect of this response was to duplicate the massive tragedy: in the first instance came the natural disaster, which could have been mitigated had the people of Burma been better–informed and prepared; what followed was a manmade disaster, through the unconscionable denial of large–scale aid and persecution of local people who tried to help.
Not only did the generals deliberately avoid contact with world leaders and international organisations desperate to offer assistance to the millions left in dire need of water, basic food and health care, not to mention longer–term relief, but they also forged ahead with the charade of a referendum on a new constitution designed to extend their grip on power indefinitely. Government officials were instructed specifically to neglect the plight of the storm victims and continue their work to prepare for a constitutional referendum, which was merely postponed by two weeks in some townships. The situation even became so absurd that the Secretary General of the United Nations was making phone calls to head of state Senior General Than Shwe but he was refusing to receive them.
Realising that the government was not going to do anything to assist, local people, and then those from further away the worst affected areas, began organising themselves. In Rangoon residents and monks cleared roads and shared water and other essentials. In the delta, thousands of homeless people gathered assistance from monks, many of whom also took on impromptu relief coordinating roles. Convoys of vehicles crammed with items donated by local well–wishers soon began running the gauntlet of military and police checkpoints in order to make up for the shortfall of supplieshe absence of official aid. (…)
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984
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WORLD: The 2008 AHRC Human Rights Report for eleven countries now available on the internet search country
see pics 7 month after nargis there