Relief aid after Myanmar cyclone tragedy

It appears that just as the revelation that Holocaust bank accounts had been retained for decades by Swiss banks without much effort to identify survivors or heirs was used to wrench modifications in the secrecy provisions that were the Swiss banking system’s greatest pride and asset, the disaster caused by the recent cyclone in Myanmar is being used to pry that secretive and closed regime open as well.

China Hand has posted, on his blog China Matters,, on 20 May about his/her “unwillingness to accept at face value the assertions in the international media that the government’s response to the cyclone has been callous and criminally incompetent. Myanmar was knocked on its behind by Cyclone Nargis. Any government response will be, by some measure, inadequate. That’s why these things are called ‘disasters … What is not getting into Myanmar is foreign aid teams that the UN and the USA are insisting must be admitted in order to make independent assessments without Myanmar government input of how and where aid should be distributed. The United States attempted, unsuccessfully, to make admission of its assessment teams a precondition for supply of aid during the initial rescue stage, but quietly abandoned this unpalatable and unnecessary demand. Now that disaster relief is moving into the recovery and reconstruction stage, the US assessment team demand has reemerged as a linchpin of American strategy and a mainstay of its propaganda campaign against the Myanmar regime. Reporting this situation as ‘not letting in aid’ is, in my opinion, misleading and dishonest”.

China Hand also wrote in that post an assertion that “the United States is playing politics with aid relief in order to put pressure on the Myanmar regime”.

Today, China Hand has given an update of his/her views on what’s happening in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis:

What the Myanmar regime is doing:

Disaster relief on a brutal triage basis.

Exerting iron control over the delta to make sure it is the only viable aid conduit (it is becoming more apparent that the Myanmar military does have a significant presence in the delta and its guiding priorities are not simply disaster relief: they are control of the population and control of the aid process—objectives we find reprehensible—that are part of an integrated strategy to successfully extract aid and diplomatic engagement from other countries. In other words, a carefully conceived and executed—and apparently successful– strategy to leverage the cyclone survivors as hostages.)

Accepting civilian aid that it distributes according to its priorities and objectives.

Not accepting military aid. (Foreign military flights are probably impossible even after the junta controls the situation in the delta and allows foreign aid workers on the scene).

What it is not doing:

Not accepting aid. This canard has caused a lot of heat and confusion that has obscured the true nature of what’s happening in the delta. It’s not incompetent, malign neglect—it’s the planned and energetic imposition of regime control over the disaster scene and the aid process—and the acceptance of no-strings-attached assistance from friendly or apolitical parties and dump-and-go aid.

What the Burmese people are doing:

The bulk of disaster relief, heroically, as local communities always do, even in horrific catastrophes of this magnitude

What in-country NGOs and their largely Burmese volunteer staffs are doing:

A tremendous job

What NGOs without a local presence are doing:

Looking for an aid mechanism that will assist them in playing a meaningful but secondary role

What the United States, France, and the UK are doing:

Worrying excessively about the junta gaining an undeserved political and economic bonanza from the disaster

What they are not doing:

Effective, large-scale disaster relief

What they should not be doing:

Trying to strip control of the aid process from the junta by advancing doomed-to-fail humanitarian intervention agendas

What ASEAN and the UN are doing:

Doing the right thing and organizing apolitical relief and a mechanism that will allow foreign aid to flow—that will unfortunately benefit the junta.

What the free-Burma organizations are doing:

Seething in justifiable frustration as the junta exploits the disaster to advance its economic and political agenda

What should be done:

Engage apolitically with the junta despite its corruption and brutality to restore the physical infrastructure of the delta and get the monsoon paddy planted.

What should be done after the basic physical security and livelihood of the people in the delta has been secured:

Link reconstruction and development aid to political reforms”.

Good job, China Hand.

Read the full posts on 20 and 29 May here .