Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The West's double-standard

At this time, the citizens of Myanmar are coping with the aftermath of a devastating cyclone. The death toll from the disaster is estimated to be in the tens of thousands, with many more missing and homeless. Aid Agencies are lining up to send in aid workers to provide much-needed relief, and even U.S. military vessels have been deployed off the coast of the Southeast Asian nation.

Unfortunately, this is not the only time the people of Myanmar have been suffering. Last year, the brutal military regime, known as the "Junta" orchestrated a campaign of ruthless murder against pro-democracy demonstrators.

From Al-Jazeera English:

For some reason, it seems that tragedies caused by mother nature take priority over those being caused by our fellow human beings. I suppose it is easier for people to rally together in the face of a storm or some other natural disaster, but much harder when the human suffering is being caused by a repressive military dictatorship.

Myanmar is not the only example. Is it necessary to invoke the Rwandan Genocide? The response to that spasm of destruction was merely a small presence of UN troops and an occasional voice of concern coming from the Clinton White House. For over three months, no one had the courage to do anything, and over a million people were left to die. Then there's Darfur, where some 400,000 people have been killed by the regime of Omar Al-Bashir. If correct, that estimate would be almost twice as many casualties as the 2004 tsunami that devastated coastal towns on the Indian Ocean. But because of our failure to even fully assess the situation, we may never know the exact number of victims claimed by the Khartoum Government. I probably shouldn't even mention violence-racked Eastern Congo, a nightmare that has claimed more lives than any of the above tragedies (both human and natural) combined. And then there are the occasions where human-caused death and destruction and natural disasters go hand and hand, like the Tamil Tigers' recruitment of child tsunami victims to fight as soldiers in the wake of the disaster.

To be clear, the outpouring of concern for the victims of Cyclone Nargis is a VERY good thing, and we can only pray that the regime in Yangon will accept every bit of aid and relief being offered. But it is a shame the international community can not take the same course of action in the face of threats that do not come from mother nature, but instead from a government that has betrayed its responsibility of protecting its citizens. Sadly, this storm is only salt in the wound for the people of Myanmar.


Mutant Pacifist said...

"For some reason, it seems that tragedies caused by mother nature take priority over those being caused by our fellow human beings."

This reminded me of Mirindian's comment on Mojo's blog, that "destruction should be left to Mother Nature". I think it's that helping people after a natural disaster doesn't require a confrontation with anyone (usually!). You don't have to make the hard moral decisions like whether it is better to fight those who are responsible for the atrocities or better to let the atrocities go unchallenged.

Usually. In Myanmar, we see that even bringing relief after a natural disaster can require more moral courage than some people can muster.

Anonymous said...

It appears that the ruling junta of Myanmar have created a new word for the world to ponder - 'GENERALOCIDE'. There is nothing quite like using Mother Nature as your sacpegoat to persecute, repress & belittle your people further. The people of Myanmar do not deserve this & they don't deserve the junta as a governing body. When is the world gong to say ENOUGH and place matters such as rescue & remedy into the hands of decent humanity instead of a few 'bully boy generals'