Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stand by themselves

Aung Hla Tun reports for Reuters:



Myanmar's junta lashed out at offers of foreign aid on Thursday, criticizing donors' demands for access to the Irrawaddy delta and saying Cyclone Nargis' 2.4 million victims could "stand by themselves". "The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries," the Kyemon newspaper said in a Burmese-language editorial.


The Burmese people can always "stand by themselves" according to the junta.
It doesn't matter how poor and helpless they are. The government just does not care.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Too little, too late

First they came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.
by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945

Parents Grief Turns to Rage at Chinese Officials From New York Times:

Bereaved parents whose children were crushed to death in their classrooms during the earthquake in Sichuan Province have turned mourning ceremonies into protests in recent days, forcing officials to address growing political repercussions over shoddy construction of public schools.

The crowd grew more agitated. Some parents said local officials had known for years that the school was unsafe but refused to take action. Others recalled that two hours passed before rescue workers showed up; even then, they stopped working at 10 p.m. on the night of the earthquake and did not resume the search until 9 a.m. the next day.

The Chinese took to the streets now that it was their children who were the victims
of the corrupted government system. When the Tibetans protested against the central communist regime, the Chiense nationalists were indifferent to them.

The authorities in Beijing appear to recognize the delicacy of the issue. On Monday, a spokesman for the Education Ministry, Wang Xuming, promised a reassessment of school buildings in quake zones, adding that those responsible for cutting corners on school construction would be severely punished.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

ASEAN

Quote of the day



To be very blunt, Asean is really just a club of generally un-enlightened regimes,
headed by autocrats, feudalists, state-paternalists and militarists all sharing
the worst strain of pathetic Asian paternalism.


Zarni, a former Burmese activist who founded the Free Burma Campaign in the US



Saturday, May 17, 2008

Diary by Andrew Kirkwood and unsung heroes in Burma

Burma diary - the relief effort

Andrew Kirkwood, Burma director of Save the Children, has been keeping a diary of his life in Rangoon in the days following Cyclone Nargis. It's a good source coming from someone on the ground.

Read his diary here and here.

Burmese people helping each other out

A few days ago, I wrote about DIY, in which I elaborated how we, the Burmese, have learned to struggle through hardships by being creative and innovative. That spirit is seen in the hard work of volunteers in reaching out to the cyclone victims.

From the Irrawaddy:
"Since I don't have the means to provide cash or kind, I contribute labor by
helping distribute relief goods," said Nyi Nyi, a 21-year-old university
student. "Whenever we distribute rice and clothing, I can see the faces of the
cyclone victims light up. It is very rewarding to see them smile."


"They are true humanitarian heroes," said Bridget Gardner, the International
Red Cross representative in Burma, after touring an area where volunteers were
giving first aid to the injured.


After enduring decades of poverty and government oppression, Burmese people
are known for their resilience, having learned to depend on each other from
day to day especially in times of crisis.



Saturday, May 10, 2008

DIY

Photo from LA Times: the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis



LA Times said:
MAKING DO: Using basic hand tools, two men in Yangon, like many Myanmar residents, are performing much of the cleanup work themselves for lack of foreign or domestic assistance.

DIY Way of Life
We, the Burmese, are used to solving problems on our own because we all know
our government does not care about us. Almost everything in Burma
is DIY (Do It Yourself), to borrow a geeky terms.

Electricity
In our town in Southern Burma, the electricity from the government is not
reliable at all (We honor Thomas Alva Edison every day by staying in the dark)
Guess what the solution of the community is? A well-to-do family would buy a
generator and install power line -- only the home-quality one -- to each house in
the street, who wants the electricity. The family runs the generator, let's say,
from 6:00 PM till 9:00 PM. The family then collects the fees every two weeks,
based on the number of fluorescent lamps you have agreed to install in the first
place. How democratic and market-oriented our community is! :)

Telecommunication
Burmese migrants in Thailand have been using the family-run telephone exchange
in the border area to call their family back home. Here is what you do. You
dial a Thailand registered number of the family-owned telephone switch in the
border and tell them the number in Burma you are trying to call.
The exchange having several phones registered both in Thailand and Burma, can
route your call from Thailand's phone system to Burma's. You have just dialed a
telephone number in Thailand and yet you are talking to your family in Burma.
They collect the fees at the end of the month based on how many minutes you
talked (or hours if you talked to your sweethearts :).
Well, the Burmese have just installed a home-made telephone switch without
any investment from governments or businesses.

Survival of the Fittest
We have learned to survive and live with inefficiencies, thanks to our government.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Emma Lazarus's The New Colossus


Emma Lazarus (July 22, 1849 - November 19, 1887) was an American poet. She wrote
"The New Colossus" in 1883, that is now engraved on a bronze plaque on a wall in the base
of the Statue of Liberty.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Paul Auster wrote that
"Bartholdi's gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the principles of
international republicanism, but 'The New Colossus' reinvented the statue's purpose,
turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden
of the world".