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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Nargis

I have been watching the grim and grimmer reports from Nargis. Myanmar (Burma) officially has 15,000 dead and maybe 30,000 missing.

If you recall, there were protests led by Burmese monks last year over the government's decision to raise fuel prices. The Myanmar government is a repressive junta, and in response to those protests the army was sent out to beat and kill the monks. So this is an even more serious situation because a large part of the population was living in marginal conditions before the storm and there are difficulties in getting aid in. This makes extremely painful reading:
9.15am
Nyan Win, the foreign minister, announced on state television that 10,000 people died in just one town, Bogalay.

"Many superstitious Burmese cannot help but believe that nature has finally intervened and punished Burma," the Irrawaddy website, run by exiled Burmese in Thailand, reports.

9.30am
The regime has announced that international aid agencies will have to negotiate with the military authorities before being allowed into Burma, according to BBC News 24.
Irawaddy:
Traditionally, Buddhist Burmese consider that if the country is ruled by a bad king, it is doomed to face natural disasters—floods, storms and fire. It’s a sign that the tyrant or inept ruler needs to be removed.

And there is reason to believe. The regime unleashed its wrath through brute force on peaceful gatherings of Buddhist monks and their supporters in September, killing dozens of innocent people. Killing monks is an unthinkable crime in a predominantly Buddhist country. Since then, many Burmese people have been warning that bad karma was coming and the generals would be punished.
The ruling junta is probably going to be more afraid of further popular unrest than worried about the welfare of the people. If you read the above link it reports that the establishment got out of Rangoon in 2005, and this is attributed to the advice of an astrologer. Not a promising situation.

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