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Food in Rangoon before the cyclone: now the people starve

Horror to Hasten End for Burma's Evil Rulers

Saturday, May 10, 2008
OPINION
ONLY leaders as black-hearted as the generals who rule Burma could manage, through callous selfishness, to turn a large natural disaster into a catastrophe of mind-boggling proportions.

On May 10, hungry, homeless Burmese were being asked to go to the polls to vote Yes or No in a tricked-up constitutional referendum.

This faux piece of theatre marks the end of the bleakest week yet in a country where, to many, every week must seem worse than the previous one.

Just seven days earler, Cyclone Nargis began carving a swath through Burma's rice-growing heartland, generating four-metre waves and devastation on a scale that has not been endured since the tsunami.

In the days since, speculation about the ultimate death toll has leapt, as it did in the aftermath of the tsunami, from large numbers to the figure now being quoted by the United Nations: 100,000 dead.

The Sun and the Daily Telegraph newspapers in Britain, where competitive idiocy is inclined to overtake sensible reporting, are now saying that the toll could reach 500,000.

Indeed, if the generals continue to behave with such disdain for the survival of the populace, that speculation may not in the end seem entirely absurd.

Having failed to warn Burma that the cyclone was coming, the generals are now intent on doing what they do best: saving their own necks.

Even if the people rise up off their knees to vote No, we know how the result will be portrayed.

This is a country where the junta has a stranglehold on the polling stations and a chained media remains face down, choking in the mud.

It will be a referendum vote based on the lessons learned from Mao, Josef Stalin and that modern-day dictator, Robert Mugabe.

The pain of the people will continue to be ignored, just as the Guide Book for Monsters says it must be.

What kind of leaders would stop the world sending aid to people in torment, hundreds of thousands who are now facing hunger and starvation?

The kind of leaders who shoot and torture monks, who build their own capital city in a safer place, and who continue to be tolerated by too many leaders of other nations who should know better.

Thailand's reaction to the tsunami of December 2004 was a model of swift action, compassion and common-sense that other nations could only admire.

It sprang from a caring society where virtually every member of every community has a value (and in adulthood, a real vote.)

Burma may also be essentially Buddhist, but its leaders are bad to the core. The greed for greater riches and a lust to stay in power are what drives the generals.

While Thailand tolerates people of all races and religions, Burma denies citizenship to those who dare to be different and practices ethnic cleansing by driving them from their homeland.

Yet today's pain will kindle tomorrow's anger, as never before.

By refusing to accept international standards of aid and decency to save their own people, the generals are shortening their own lifespans as leaders.

As painful as the agony of Burma is to watch, it's certain now that the winds of change are coming, albeit at a terrible, terrible cost.

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Saturday June 25, 2022
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