Burma cyclone response was ‘crime against humanity’

The Guardian (here), Telegraph (here) and Reuters (here) have articles dealing with the growing body of evidence that the ruling military junta in Burma (Myanmar) deliberately blocked relief assistance to millions of people living in the Irrawaddy Delta region that was devastated by Cyclone Nagris last May.

Burma has suffered horrifically under a series of military regimes since 1962, but the current one under the leadership of Than Shwe seems determined to raise the level of pain to unprecedented levels.  Cyclone Nagris affected over 3 million people and killed at least 140,000 in a country that had barely started to emerge out of the shadow of a brutal crackdown against the Saffron Revolution in the fall of 2007.

The joint report released by John Hopkins Unversity and the Emergency Assistance Team – Burma discusses the various ways in which the regime sacrifices their own people’s welfare in order to maintain an iron grip over the country during a massive natural disaster.

As the Guardian reported, this “study found that the Burmese army obstructed private cyclone relief efforts even among its own concerned citizens, setting up checkpoints and arresting some of those trying to provide help.  Supplies of overseas relief materials that were eventually allowed into Burma were confiscated by the military and sold in markets, the packaging easily identifiable.”

The Telegraph article pointing out that “there were also anecdotal accounts of people dying in the aftermath of the cyclone due to the actions of the army.  But restrictions in the country mean no one has been able to estimate how many died in a supposed “second wave” of deaths in the period after the cyclone.

Under international law, creating conditions where the basic survival needs of civilians cannot be adequately met, “intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health,” is considered a crime against humanity.”

I can olny hope that such a course of action happens, though I have my doubts.  The various strongmen that have led Burma’s military juntas have literaly gotten away with millions of murders over the last two decades.  If ethnic cleansing, stolen elections, and brutal crackdowns, thousands of political prisoners, beating Buddhist monks wasn’t enough before this report came out, will the ICC and the UN NSC do something now?  Will China and ASEAN condemn the regime and take moves that could undermine the notion of sovereignty that they have used to stop such actions from being taken in the past?

I sincerely hope so.  Such cruelty and human rights violations must be dealt with once and for all.

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