Myanmar’s Disastrous Cyclone

22,500 seems to be the most commonly accepted number of people who died in the cyclone. But as past experience with numbers given out by governments have showed us time and again, this number is bound to escalate. Experts, however, predict that around 50,000 people could have possibly died and another million could easily be homeless.

The otherwise secretive and impoverished state (The UN lists Myanmar as one of the least developed countries in the world) has now been forced to appeal to the world for aid. Witness accounts and whatever little footage is available to the world media have shown us horrific images of flattened paddy fields punctuated with dismembered body parts and corpses.

State television said 21,793 people were killed and 40,695 were missing in Irrawaddy division, while 671 were killed and 359 people were missing in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

Indian meteorologists said that they had warned Myanmar 48 hours before the storm hit. However, the UN’s disaster reduction agency said it was clear that people had no time to evacuate. US First Lady Laura Bush has said that the government had not done enough to warn its citizens about the approaching storm.

Bush had only last week imposed a new round of sanctions on the country’s military rulers to pressurise them on human rights and political reform. He has now announced that the US will commit 3 million through the US Agency for International Development in order to meet the most urgent needs

The White House later announced the United States was committing $3 million through the U.S. Agency for International Development to meet the most urgent needs.

Bush was quoted saying, “We’re prepared to move U.S. naval assets to help find those who lost their lives, to help find the missing, to help stabilize the situation. But in order to do so, the military junta must allow our disaster assessment teams into the country.”

It is inevitable that a now crippled Myanmar, who had been bravely fighting off the threat of American hegemonic dominance, will now succumb. The fact remains that Myanmar needs the money that the US wants to generously give for such noble, humanitarian reasons. But in exchange (basic capitalist principles : demand-supply, goods-payment…you know the drill), the US will obviously take over any semblance of political independence that a “Fourth World” country like Myanmar had. The US, as past experience in Afghanistan and Iraq has elucidated, is quite ingenious when it comes to this new brand of sugar coated imperialism.

“We want to do a lot more,” Bush had told reporters in the Oval Office.

It seems, however, that people like you and me can only sit and watch as the US slowly reveals to the world what exactly they have in mind.

Aniruddh Ghosal

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