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Myanmar relief

 
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CAM
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PostPosted: Fri 16 May, 2008 11:20 am    Post subject: Myanmar relief Reply with quote

I'm in Bangkok at the moment, and have been going to the frequent press conferences of UN officials and relief organizations. (No not a journalist)

Lots of rumour that relief supplies are going astray, and relief workers not being allowed in. It's true that few foreign relief workers are not being allowed in, but the UN has investigated rumours that relief supplies are on the open market and hasn't been able to find any such thing in the markets. In fact, all info is that organizations are delivering relief supplies, particularly by organizations that have have national staff who have been buying and distributing local supplies. But there are not enough relief personnel and supplies. Those organizations already working there need donations. A colleague of mine who knows the region well has produced the following list of organizations who are now working in the country around the clock even though many of them have themselves been badly affected by the cyclone:
There are other organizations who are now getting supplies and people in, so this is not an exhaustive list. But I'm grateful to the guy who did the work to put together this list. He can't be named because of political sensitivies.


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PostPosted: Sun 18 May, 2008 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, CAM, for the link to the list of relief organizations that are currently working in Myanmar. Or is it Burma?

I'm confused a bit by the name. Most of the time, media reports seem to be about Burma rather than Myanmar. Hasn't this area of the world been called Myanmar for quite some time now? Is this refusal of the press to call the country Myanmar some sort of backlash against the Junta who decided to change the name from Burma in 1989?

Hmmm, time to google...

aha!! (excuse me for replying to my own questions):

wikipedia wrote:
The name "Myanmar" is derived from the local short-form name Myanma Naingngandaw [...] has been used since the 13th century. [...] In older English documents the usage was Bermah, and later Burmah.

[...]

On 18 June 1989, the Burmese military junta [...] officially changed the English version of the country's name from Burma to Myanmar [...] Opposition groups continue to use the name "Burma", since they do not recognize the legitimacy of the ruling military government nor its authority to rename the country in English.


Read the whole article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma#The_name_of_the_country



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PostPosted: Sat 24 May, 2008 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ejm wrote:
Thanks, CAM, for the link to the list of relief organizations that are currently working in Myanmar. Or is it Burma?


As you have noted, EJM, opposition groups call it Burma because they do not recognize the junta. The USA calls it Burma as does the UK and Canada. The UN calls it Myanmar since it's the Myanmar regime that represents the country at the UN.

What do I call it? I call it Myanmar when in Myanmar, because that's what people in Myanmar call it. I also refer to the Myanmar regime or junta. I do not support the regime one bit. It is highly illegitimate. I'm also a fan of Aung San Suu Kyi who calls it Burma.

I refer to Burmese people as Burmese. But many people in Myanmar are not Burmese -- they are Karen or Shan or.... This country is one of many colonies of Europe whose national borders and and identities were manufactured by the colonial powers. The conflicts of today have roots in the past. (However, I don't believe that without European colonization there would be no contemporary political conflicts... just different ones.)

The situation in Myanmar/Burma is still desperate in many areas, particularly areas of the lower delta region where access has been a problem. I understand that about 40% of the population in that area are ethnic minorities. I hope the junta really will let in "all relief workers" as promised to the UN Secretary General yesterday.



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PostPosted: Fri 30 May, 2008 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Attended a UN press briefing re Myanmar (Burma) today here in Bangkok. UN personnel are now getting in. Visa times reduced from 2 weeks to 2 days. But NGOs still need better access, as only about 40% of those affected have been reached with some kind of aid. Last week it was 30%. The UN are trying to be positive, as they need the government and government officials to cooperate. The Red Cross has the best on-the-ground networks because of the Myanmar Red Cross volunteers. But there is always a fine balance between external aid and the capacity of local networks to distribute -- more $ to one agency doesn't necessarily translate into immediate on the ground relief. But donations to reputable agencies are going to be utilized sooner or later as folks in Myanmar will need help for reconstruction for quite some time.

UN concerns now are:

- school term starts June 2, but all of Myanmar's more than 4000 schools have been affected. More than 1200 completely destroyed, and thousands have lost their roofs. UNICEF today said it's important to get kids back to school ASAP because it helps them with a sense of normalcy.

- UN Office of Coordination of the Humanitarian Action (OCHA) says it's important that people not be forced back to their homes (read: there are concerns that people are being or may soon be forced out of camps and back to places that have no services.)

- More resources needed as relief efforts continue and at the same time some kinds of reconstruction must begin -- e.g. rice crops need to bge planted quite soon, schools need to be made habitable (so that kids can move from school tents, etc.

The cyclone destruction is seen to be of the huge scale of the tsunami in Aceh (Indonesia). Remarkable to hear this kind of detail about what is needed and when and how. And what I am hearing is still extremely general and digested.

Off to Cambodia Sunday. Hope my usual Phnom Penh hotel responds soon to let me know they have a room for me!



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PostPosted: Fri 30 May, 2008 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the updates, CAM.

Typically, because the cyclone is "old news", Myanmar/Burma isn't quite as prominently featured in the media here.

What a nightmare it must be for the aid workers who are so close yet so far from reaching their goals. Do you think there is any possibility that people being forced out of the camps and back to their homes might cause a counter-revolution rather than total demoralization that the military appears bent on?



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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jun, 2008 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ejm wrote:
Do you think there is any possibility that people being forced out of the camps and back to their homes might cause a counter-revolution rather than total demoralization that the military appears bent on?


If there is a revolution, it won't be right away. The population in the affected areas is focussed on survival or repairing homes. We need to wait and see what the political environment will be like.

I see that the comedian Maung Thura, one of the famous "Moustache Brothers," was arrested again a few days ago:
ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5htTXVgFJTxDI5Gzro_Sh03v_fPawD913MU9G0
He works as a dentist to make ends meet, which makes sense of his famous joke: "Don�t you have dentists in Burma?� �Yes,� replies the man, �but in Burma no one�s allowed to open his mouth.�

Also, if there is a change of government, it likely won't happen without the consent of China's government which is a major supporter of the regime.


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