Thursday, May 15, 2008

Myanmar: The Ongoing Fiasco

Once again, I seem to be the harbinger of bad news - but one of the key reasons why aid workers, especially US aid workers, remain barred from Burma is that the junta is currently holding a "constitutional referendum" in "response" to the protests in September. The good news: Elections scheduled for 2010. The bad news: the document "guarantees a quarter of parliamentary seats to the military and bars from public office the detained leader of the country's pro-democracy movement, Aung San Suu Kyi" (see this article in the Guardian, and a second article in the UK Telegraph).

Oh, and did I forget to mention? Over 100,000 could be dead and 2.5 million remain without aid - according to the Red Cross and UN. Just as disturbing is the fact that, due to the Cyclone's timing, farmers in the Irrawaddy Delta may have missed the harvest and require aid to replenish seed, fish, and livestock destroyed by Nargis (see this article in the NY Times).

As devastating as this immediate situation is, let me make a suggestion: The Telegraph article above suggests a few large organizations to donate to (Oxfam, Save the Children, Christian Aid, etc.). These are all organizations that do good work, but they also have a large funding stream from major foundations and don't focus on Burma. If you really want to help this country, which is one of the saddest cases in development - a closed-off country in a region that has performed very well and seen significant improvement in the past twenty years - go to the US Campaign for Burma. They're a relatively small but effective NGO, and the main organization fighting for international action against the junta. I also know a number of people who have worked with them, and their founder is an American University alum.