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August 19th, 2009
Eyes of the Storm
Imprisoned Aid Workers Slideshow

Even as Burma’s military government downplayed the damage from Cyclone Nargis and blocked international aid for several crucial weeks, thousands of Burmese volunteers delivered food and medical supplies to survivors of the storm in the Irrawaddy Delta. Watch this slideshow to learn how 21 volunteers, some of them also pro-democracy activists, were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms – a situation that Human Rights Watch describes as a “largely forgotten dimension to the post-Nargis reconstruction effort.”

Many photos were provided by Burma’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) and the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), which is part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

  • Subir Guin

    The only way the Generals in Burma have been able to ignore worldwide criticism for their barbarism is because they are aided and abetted by nations aside from China,that have shown scant regard for human rights:India, Serbia and Singapore continue to trade with Burma, supplying them with weapons – which are used against their own people. As a person of Indian origin, I am particularly ashamed of the current administration in Delhi for turning their backs on the people of Burma and helping to prop up a small band of unscrupulous thugs – some of my Burmese friends tell me they are unbelievably stupid as well, and could never survive a battle if they faced an invasion.

    What makes India’s role so inexplicable is the fact that Burma has become a base for Chinese military outposts in the Bay of Bengal, and China’s naval presence in the Indian Ocean will continue to escalate. If India’s rationale for keeping on good terms with Burma’s military goons, is only because
    she has problems keeping a lid on separatist elements on her North Eastern border with China, that is both illogical and risky.
    As for the plight of the Burmese people, the junta has shown total disregard for their basic needs – especially after the devastating cyclone and to top that, they did not spare the courageous monks who dared to participate in the street protests two years ago.
    The authorities even refused relief supplies from overseas, knowing full well that the victims of the storm would barely survive let alone organise themselves.
    It would be hard to find a worse case of deliberate and organised brutality anywhere on this troubled planet.

    Wide Angle has done a magnificient job in reminding us that the people of Burma are still suffering and some collective action by the global community has to be taken. If we cannot dislodge the current rulers, we could at least let them know that for all their efforts to keep the real facts from leaking out, the world is witnessing their mistreatment of defenceless people. Those nations who trade with Burma also need to be exposed along with lists of the goods and services they provide for the rogue administration.

    Mealy-mouthed diplomacy has not worked; we need to explore other options.

  • Adam A.

    I agree completely with the previous post and would add that fighting against something is never as effective as fighting for something.

    Global market participant nations concerned with civil rights in places like Burma need to illustrate the benefits of justice and stability in the world, not just from a moral or ethical standard but an economically pragmatic one.

    Crushing poverty mixed with a violent political hegemony have no long-term sustainability beyond the scope of immediately exploitable resources. Once those resources are no longer available, the nation collapses further and creates a singularity effect that weighs upon neighboring economies in terms of insistent need for aid or the creation of a need for military dilligence.

    By increasing the overall participation of civilians in a nation’s economy, we increase the chances of regional stability and prevent the possibility for significant economic loss of neighboring, trading or partnering nations due to further political/economic collapse.

    Until we can effectively make this argument to nations such as China, India, et al, Burma’s dictators will continue to operate under its current status quo with little regard for the suffering of their people.

    In America, that dialogue begins with making the very same case to our leaders.

    A great documentary. Thank you for your work in presenting this to us.

  • Nathan

    Host Aaron Brown is condescending and seems to enjoy leading the direction of conversations rather than letting his interviewees have their say. One of the interviewees on this program was trying to make the point that it is much harder for dictatorships to operate in the age of media and the internet. She said (very obviously tongue-in-cheek) something like “it’s very hard being a dictatorship in the twenty-first century.” Brown turned around and said, with arched eyebrows, “well, of course, it’s more difficult to be the victim of of such a dictatorship.” Brilliant. (Clap-clap). I expect that lack of insight from most network news, but not from PBS. Aaron Brown does not belong on such a program.

  • move on

    There is always 2 sides to a story. Walking in to a film in progress for the past 20+ years and assuming things assigning blames to make one side look bad will not serve the victims of this disaster even U S I doubt will be able to handle.
    One should direct the energy to really help. The best way to help is through encouraging this government to do more who has proven to be wanting.
    PBS as usual serve the opposition organization such as DVB.
    Instead it should have directed concern of the victims to apolitical organizations within burma that is really helping without persecution Much more than NGOs have done!

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