Thursday, May 8, 2008

Which is worse? Cyclone Nargi or Burma's military regime?

While here in the U.S. we're worrying about the price of gasoline or perhaps, less selfishly, concerned about how U.S. biofuels are putting upward pressure on the price of food throughout the world, the people of Burma (Myanmar) are struggling to survive the assault of a natural disaster that appears to be record breaking, the worst in Burma's history.

And because of shortsightedness and fear of losing their authoritarian control of Burma's people, the country's repressive rulers are refusing to allow rescue and aid agencies from throughout the world to enter the country. At this writing, the U.S. Secretary of Defense was weighing the possibility of air drops of essential medical supplies and water and France's ambassador to the U.N. had complained that two Security Council members have shut the door on a Security Council discussion of Burma's plight. Meanwhile, Burma's rulers appear to be more concerned with the fake elections scheduled for this week.

All this is adding to the embarrassment of China surrounding the upcoming Olympic games. Supporters of a Free Tibet are calling for a boycott of the games and the U.S. Campaign for Burma is calling for a boycott in support of the people of Burma. China which deals with Burma's generals to secure oil and natural gas supplies from that country has been reluctant to pressure them on human rights issues.

As a U.S. citizen it is hard for me to point the finger at China for doing what the U.S. has done throughout its history: support dictators who made it easy for U.S. corporations to get what they wanted whether it was oil or bananas. But I'm boycotting the Olympics. Not to pressure China but to let all those U.S. corporations know that I'm sick of their role in oppressing poor people all over the world.

In fact, why doesn't Chevron, the one U.S. company still allowed to do business with the generals, start pressuring them to open Burma's borders to those agencies and countries who are able to help the Burmese people in this hour of their need.

If you wish to find out more about the boycott and other ways to help Burma's people the U.S. Project for Burma is a good place to start:

For information about current events in Burma related to the cyclone, the generals' response to the peaceful protest led by Burma's monks last year and links to other Burma websites go to Takizen's Burma World:

If you want visual testimony to the cruelty of Burma's current regime, please visit the Flickr account of Burma Friend: