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2008年5月10日 (土)



EDITORIAL: Cyclone-hit Myanmar


Expansive areas of emerald rice paddies became muddy brown swamps after a giant cyclone hit Myanmar (Burma), the poorest nation in Southeast Asia. Rainstorms and high waves have caused catastrophic damage to the Irrawaddy delta area.



Myanmar's state radio reports more than 22,000 people dead. It also reports that more than 41,000 remain missing. The United Nations also estimates that nearly 1 million people lost their homes.


Reporting from Bogalay in southern Myanmar where the damage was widespread, CNN showed footage of people dumping bodies into a river. According to reports, more than 10,000 of the town's population of about 100,000 people died.


In Yangon (Rangoon), the nation's largest city, power outages and water shortages continue, with people forming long lines for fresh water.

Even though it has been several days since the storm hit, relief efforts are yet to start in earnest. What is even more serious is that the whole picture of the damage is still unknown. We worry that if nothing is done to improve the situation, infectious diseases will break out, threatening the survival of children especially.


But Myanmar's military government is dragging its feet. Even though India had informed Myanmar officials that the cyclone was on its way, the government failed to warn its citizens and issue evacuation advisories. Had it acted promptly and taken early measures, the damage may have been minimized.


Although the junta belatedly agreed to accept international aid, United Nations officials and members of nongovernmental organizations waiting to enter the country are still being held up because of visa delays. Can it be that the government is reluctant to show the outside world the extent of the damage and its slow response?


We think that may be so, because the military government has placed its grasp of power far above the lives and human rights of its citizens.

United Nations and the Red Cross workers stationed in Myanmar have started to distribute food they had stored in Yangon. Aid from Thailand and other neighboring countries has also started to trickle in to parts of the country. But given the extent of damage, this is merely a drop in the bucket.

Even U.S. President George W. Bush offered to provide humanitarian relief, although his government has strongly criticized Myanmar's military regime for its human rights violations.




Myanmar should immediately accept all such offers of help from international society, regardless of where they come from.

The junta, which has drafted a new Constitution that allows it to continue military rule, had planned to hold a referendum to put it to a vote Saturday. In response to the damage caused by the cyclone, it decided to postpone that vote in stricken areas, but the referendum is supposed to go ahead as scheduled in other areas.



The National League for Democracy led by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is opposed to this referendum. The contents of the draft Constitution are questionable, and a referendum that ignores the political opposition is unlikely to be recognized by international society.

But setting all that aside, it is doubtful that a proper referendum can be conducted by a government that cannot even provide relief to its own desperate citizens in stricken areas.



The first thing the Myanmar government should do is to concentrate all its resources on helping the survivors of the cyclone. To do that, it must open the country to humanitarian relief. It must not cause these unfortunate people further suffering.


--The Asahi Shimbun, May 8(IHT/Asahi: May 9,2008)

朝日新聞 5月8日号 (英語版 2008年5月9日発行)


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