” From that altitude, it really became clear the scale of the devastation. Large parts of the area we flew over were still underwater as far as one could see on either side of the helicopter. ” - Andrew Kirkwood, Save the Children
A devastating cyclone, massive flooding and horrific loss of life is challenging Myanmar’s self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. Since 1962, the ruling military junta has exercised near total control over the country.
Outside aid is now arriving, approved by the junta on a “plane by plane” basis, but aid distribution to beleaguered survivors is being delayed by the lack of experienced relief workers, not to mention the insufficient number of Myanmar army personnel and scarcity of helicopters to cope with the magnitude of the disaster.
Not much is known about the reclusive generals, who have always kept a low public profile. There is no free press and foreign reporters are rarely admitted into Myanmar. But the cyclone disaster (62,000 dead or missing, & rising) is bringing the junta much unwanted attention. In this video interview (which includes live footage from Myanmar) Andrew Kirkwood, in-country director for Save the Children in Myanmar, reports first-hand observations on relief efforts since the cyclone first hit. In a related video interview, two experts analyze the ruling military junta and its opposition.
The web resources at the end of this blog entry link to additional information and videos about Myanmar for class discussion or further research. Why does the junta bar most foreign reporters, tourists and aid workers from Myanmar? What might they be afraid of? What can you/we do to help current “survivors in Myanmar, or for that matter, in any other disaster like the recent earthquake in China, or from our own disaster in New Orleans?
Did the U.S. turn down any international aid offers after the Katrina hurricane disaster?
Who is Aung San Suu Kyi and why does she have so many supporters? What issue(s) were being protested during the rare monk-led demonstrations last fall? If you were a Myanmar citizen, might you have joined the protest? What were the risks? How might your life be different if all political, social, economic and educational decisions were made only by our military?
Below are some web links related to this story.
Report and transcript: Aid Organizations Face Continuing Hurdles in Myanmar
Report and transcript: Myanmar’s Rulers Hold Tight to Power Amid Cyclone Crisis
Report and transcript: For Indiana Community, Myanmar’s Cyclone Crisis Hits Home
In Depth Coverage Myanmar’s Humanitarian Crisis
Narrated Slide Show: Cyclone Nargis Batters Myanmar
Transcript: Aid Official Discusses Challenges of Working in Myanmar
Forum: Examining Myanmar’s Military Regime
Human Rights Watch: Burma
Save the Children
Andrew Kirkwood’s blog:: Burma diary - the relief effort
BBC Video Race to reach Burma with aid
BBC Video Burma referendum goes ahead
BBC Video Burma Aid in Short Supply
Aung San Suu Kyi
September 2007 Protests