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Posts Tagged ‘Frog

Frogs, not chocolate: Post-cyclone survival in Burma

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16 Jul 2008 14:43:00 GMT

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Joel Charny
On May 30th, four weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, the New Light of Myanmar, one of the government’s propaganda mouthpieces, ran a particularly nasty editorial, accusing the international aid community of being stingy in response to the disaster while assuring the world that the Burmese people were tough enough to survive. “Myanmar people are capable enough of rising from such natural disasters even if they are not provided with international assistance,” the commentary stated. “Myanmar people can easily get fish for dishes by just fishing in the fields and ditches. In the early monsoon, large edible frogs are abundant. The people can survive with self-reliant efforts even if they are not given chocolate bars from [the] international community.”

The commentary, coming at a time when the government seemed to be finally accepting international access to the Irrawaddy Delta region, elicited global condemnation from political activists and human rights groups, as it underscored the cruelty of the military junta and its lack of concern for the welfare of the people. To this day, two and a half months after the cyclone, the international aid effort has fallen well short of the scope and depth of coverage required to meet the needs of the more than two million survivors directly affected by the storm. Outsiders with no experience inside Burma have stated that a “second wave of dying has begun” and made alarming predictions that “hundreds of thousands” of Burmese may die as the result of Burmese government obstruction.

As access has improved to the delta region, however, and the tri-partite aid coordination body, consisting of representatives of the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asia Nations, and the government, completed its assessment of conditions, the conclusion of the aid agencies is that there were very few additional deaths after the cyclone’s initial fury. According to reports by The New York Times and the Associated Press, there was, in fact, no second wave of dying as the result of food shortages, epidemics, and exposure. The Burmese people in the delta showed exactly the resilience and strength to survive that the government of Burma was touting.

This in no way excuses the government for obstructing the relief effort. The resilience of the people derives from their life-long experience of government neglect and failure to tend to their basic needs. They knew that even in the aftermath of the cyclone they would probably be on their own, or reliant on neighbors, religious institutions, and other non-governmental sources of assistance.

My regret is that I didn’t have the courage to express skepticism about the alarmist predictions of a second wave of deaths as aid agencies gradually gained access to the delta within two or three weeks of the cyclone. My experience in Cambodia in the aftermath of the 1979 famine taught me that in the relatively lush environment of mainland Southeast Asia, once people are free to forage for food they will survive. Rice paddies are full of small fish, crabs, and frogs that provide protein. Fruit and edible plants grow in abundance. Air temperatures rarely go below 75 degrees, limiting deaths from exposure. Contaminated water is a menace, but in the rainy season drinking water can be collected.

I knew that no one in the Irrawaddy Delta was going to die from lack of food. The risk was that a cholera epidemic or a wave of diarrheal diseases might sweep through the weakened survivors, especially children. Thankfully, it appears that this did not occur.

International aid agencies have a long record of exaggerating their impact and underestimating the self-help capacity of local people. One of the primary lessons of the response to the 2004 tsunami was that the true “first responders,” the ones who save lives in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe, are precisely the survivors themselves. They, and supporting organizations, including local government agencies, are the ones who make an immediate difference, well before even the fastest international agencies can mobilize. In disaster prone areas, therefore, strengthening the response capacity of communities and their institutions, whether government or non-governmental, is an essential investment to save lives in the future.

In Burma, the government and its most powerful institution, the military, did very little relief work. What helped save the day in Burma was the tremendous outpouring of individual and small group efforts by Burmese citizens. Buddhist monks, teachers, doctors, merchants — even travel agents according to a former U.S. diplomat in touch with friends inside the country —banded together to raise funds, collect materials, and provide direct assistance. While the military confiscated some of this aid, and periodically blocked access by Burmese, enough of these efforts were successful to help meet some of the immediate needs of the survivors. Coupled with their ability to live off the land as they re-gained their strength, these efforts were enough to stave off a second catastrophe.

“Frogs, not chocolate” is not going to become the motto of the international aid community, nor should it. The blocking of aid by the Burmese government in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis was unconscionable. But the phrase contains a measure of truth, and suggests that we should never underestimate people’s ability to find a way to survive in the face of catastrophe.

–Joel Charny

Visit our website to learn more about Joel’s mission to Burma.


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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

July 17, 2008 at 2:49 am

Let Them Eat Frogs

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Let Them Eat Frogs

Burma’s junta is willing to let its people starve while relief waits just offshore.

Friday, May 30, 2008; Page A12

“THE SEARCH for food begins just after dawn,” the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday from a small, devastated village in Burma. “Each day, men, women and children fan out into paddies flooded by seawater, littered with corpses. Like prospectors working claims, they scoop up the muck in their bare hands and finger through it for grains of unmilled rice swept away by the cyclone. When their luck is good, they discover red chile peppers or small onions in mud reeking of the dead. Then, they can have condiments with their next meal of rotten rice and coconut meat.”

If only those villagers had read the New Light of Myanmar! The official newspaper for the military junta in charge (Myanmar being the generals’ name for the country) this week assured its readers that everything was returning to normal in Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta. And, the junta also assured its readers, hunger could not be a problem, since farmers can gather water clover or “go out with lamps at night and catch plump frogs.”

This might be funny were it not obscene. In fact, according to editor and columnist Aung Zaw of the exile magazine Irrawaddy, more than half of the 2.4 million people affected by the cyclone have yet to receive aid. Meanwhile, a U.S. naval task force consisting of the USS Essex and three other vessels has been steaming in circles offshore since Cyclone Nargis swept through Burma on May 2 and 3. According to Adm. Timothy Keating, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, the task force could deliver 250,000 pounds of relief material per day, by plane, helicopter and amphibious landing craft. “And the kids out there, the young sailors and Marines, are desperate to provide help,” Adm. Keating said Wednesday. “Some of them have experience with the tsunami at Aceh. Some of them have experience with Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh last Thanksgiving. So these guys, they know what they’re doing and they know how much help they can provide just that quick. . . . And there would be significant materiel going ashore within an hour, I’d say.”

So why are those villagers still scrounging? “As yet,” Adm. Keating explained, “we don’t have permission from Burma to conduct those operations.”

That’s right. Since the cyclone that left more than 100,000 people dead or missing, Burma’s generals have found time to conduct a phony referendum to make military rule permanent; issue a decree extending the house arrest of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi; detain many other democracy activists and ordinary civilians and monks trying to deliver aid to cyclone victims; harry and repulse foreign correspondents (the Los Angeles Times reporter quoted above had to file anonymously); and complain that foreign governments are being stingy with “reconstruction” aid. But the junta continues to prevent the kind of large-scale relief operation that the country needs, allowing in just enough private aid workers to defuse international pressure.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was right to visit Burma and press the junta to admit more aid. But he was wrong, in explaining why he didn’t say much there about Aung San Suu Kyi, to urge a “focus on people, not politics.” It is politics — the generals’ politics — that is killing uncounted numbers of children in Burma’s delta. It is the generals’ politics to rebuff emergency relief while demanding reconstruction loans that could make the junta richer. And it is the generals’ politics that is forcing villagers to strain the mud for rotten rice while tons of clean food float unused not many miles away.

Written by Lwin Aung Soe

May 30, 2008 at 7:16 am

Posted in Editorial

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World Focus on Burma (30 May 08)

Latest news on the disaster in Myanmar (Burma)New!

Support the victims of the cyclone in Myanmar (Burma)New!

Myanmar may use forced labor in cyclone recovery: ILO

Reuters –
The ILO has been at loggerheads with the former Burma for more than a decade over what the United Nations agency calls a widespread practice of forcing …


Carbon credits could help save Amazon, blunt warming, Canada –
… from carbon trading schemes may be the least likely to use the money effectively, such as Burma (Myanmar), Bolivia, The Democratic Republic of Congo and . …


Aid groups say Myanmar still hindering foreign assistance to …, PA –
An estimated 2.4 million people are homeless and hungry after the May 2-3 cyclone hit Myanmar, also known as Burma. “We urge speedy implementation of all …


Junta bans more proxy sites, India –
… banned information flow from Burma through its major internet service provider, Myanmar Teleport, Bagan Net and Myanmar Posts and Telecommunications.


UN: Myanmar forcing storm victims from camps

The Associated Press –
An estimated 2.4 million people remain homeless and hungry after the May 2-3 cyclone hit Myanmar, also known as Burma. Myanmar’s government says the cyclone …


The Night Is Young, ME –
Cyclone Nargis has taken an unfathomable toll on the people of Burma (Myanmar). Thousands upon thousands are dead, and millions of others are in dire need …


Suu Kyi symbolises strength

Merinews, India –
Aung San Suu Kyi symbolises the spiritual strength of the people of Myanmar. The frail figure of Suu Kyi has fought a lonely battle to restore human dignity …


Rotary helping disaster victims with ShelterBox program

Trentonian, Canada –
… well used in emergencies in several parts of the world, and thousands are now on their way to victims of recent disasters in Myanmar (Burma) and China. …


Singapore: Myanmar junta scared foreign aid workers will expose … (Pressemitteilung), Austria –

AP SINGAPORE (AP) – Myanmar’s military rulers are afraid to let in international aid workers to help cyclone victims because it might expose their own …

Logistics hamper Myanmar relief

Watch what’s happened to schools in Myanmar » World Vision has about 500 workers in Myanmar, also known as Burma, delivering shelter, food, water and health …


Myanmar afraid cyclone handling will show up junta-Singapore

Reuters –
The evictions come a day after official media in the former Burma lashed out at offers of foreign aid, criticising donors’ demands for access to the …


Calgary Herald

Myanmar blasts aid donors for not giving more

The Associated Press –
But the military rulers of Myanmar, also known as Burma, are continuing to throw up obstacles to the free flow of international aid, aid and human rights groups said Friday.
World leaders outraged at detention in Myanmar Edmonton Sun
Myanmar enacts new constitution: state TV ABS CBN News
AFPWashington (Pressemitteilung)Deutsche Welle
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Superstition and ‘panties for peace’ in Myanmar/Burma

Dallas Morning News –
Women around the world are asked to post their panties to local Burmese embassies in a bid to strip the regime of its power and bring an end to its gross violations of human rights, especially those committed against Burma’s women.
Panties Sent to Burma for Peace
Women asked to send underwear to Myanmar KOKI FOX 23
MetroSifyGulf Daily NewsThe Canadian Press
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CBS News

US naval forces consider abandoning Myanmar relief efforts

Jane’s –
By Casandra Newell The commander of US naval operations in the Pacific Ocean, Admiral Tim Keating, said on 28 May that US Navy (USN) ships off the coast of Myanmar waiting to deliver aid to cyclone victims might soon depart. Adm Keating stated during a …
Myanmar’s Generals Approve Visas for UN Cyclone Relief Workers Bloomberg
US Navy Waiting for Junta’s Permission to Deliver Burma Aid Washington Post
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US sharply skeptical of Myanmar constitution

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The White House on Friday expressed frustration at the pace of aid flows into Myanmar after devastating Cyclone Nargis and said the ruling junta’s new constitution lacks credibility.
Myanmar junta forcing storm victims from camps without proper … The Canadian Press
UN: Myanmar junta forcing storm victims from camps The Associated Press
The Press AssociationReutersVoice of AmericaReuters
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Brisbane Times

Burma cyclone aid agencies make plea for orphans –
“Institutionalisation really is the last resort,” said Guy Cave, Save the Children’s Burma deputy country director.
Burma Grants Visas to Relief Workers, But Little Access to Delta Voice of America
Burma grants all UN visa requests BBC News
Belfast TelegraphOneWorld.netIrish TimesHuman Rights Watch (press release)
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Myanmar officially adopts new military-backed constitution

International Herald Tribune –
AP YANGON, Myanmar: Military-ruled Myanmar has adopted a new constitution through a referendum that critics note was held in aftermath of a severe cyclone while hundreds of thousands of victims were receiving little or no aid from the government.
Myanmar adopts new pro-military constitution
Myanmar officially adopts new military-backed constitution (Pressemitteilung)
ReutersThe Canadian PressThe Associated PressBernama
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San Francisco Chronicle

Myanmar’s military dictators: Let cyclone victims save themselves!

San Francisco Chronicle –
What to make of the latest unfathomable or arrogant or (choose an adjective) pronouncement from the military dictators of Myanmar, who have made it so hard for international relief-organization workers to enter their mountainous country and deliver …
WHO launches 28 million dollar healthcare plan for Myanmar AFP
International SOS Responds to Myanmar Cyclone PR Newswire (press release)
ReliefWeb (press release)ReliefWeb (press release)
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Sydney Morning Herald

Burma: cyclone victims can survive on own

Melbourne Herald Sun –
By staff writers BURMA’s military government has lashed out at donors who promised millions of dollars of aid, saying the survivors of Cyclone Nargis didn’t need “bars of chocolate”.
Myanmar: Junta Upset Over Aid Pledges New York Times
Myanmar blasts international donors for not giving more aid Times and Transcript
Sydney Morning HeraldThe Herald
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Myanmar’s cyclone response regrettable: Singapore PM

ABS CBN News –
Myanmar’s response to foreign offers of help for victims of a devastating cyclone in the country is regrettable, Singapore’s prime minister said Friday.
Myanmar afraid cyclone handling will show up junta-Singapore Reuters
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Chinese medics donate medical equipment to Myanmar

Xinhua –
YANGON, May 30 (Xinhua) — Chinese medics working in Myanmar for the relief of cyclone victims donated four vehicles for medical use and other medical equipment as well as medicines to the Myanmar side Friday as the team is about to end their two-week …
Japan medical team arrives in cyclone-hit Myanmar Thai News Agency MCOT
Japanese medics arrive in Myanmar for cyclone victims People’s Daily Online
ReliefWeb (press release)Thai News Agency MCOT
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Radio Australia

UN warns Burma it is endangering its citizens

Bangkok Post –
Access to the delta remains an issue, almost a week after Burma’s junta chief Senior General Than Shwe promised UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that he would allow access to all international aid workers.
Burma’s military says new constitution enacted Radio Australia
Burma adopts new constitution: state media ABC Online
Voice of America
all 8 news articles »

Myanmar Aid Workers Say Delta Needs Are `Critical’ (Update2)

Bloomberg –
More than 130000 people were killed or left missing by the storm in the country formerly known as Burma, the UN says. Doctors Without Borders has 250 workers, more than a dozen of them from outside Myanmar, operating in the delta, Terasse said, …

Boston Globe

French humanitarian aid to Burma (May 29, 2008)

France Diplomatie (press release) –
The aircraft took off from the airport at Vatry with permission to land in Burma where it will arrive in the night (6:15 am local time).
French navy ship delivers aid to Burma ABC Online
French ship rejected by Myanmar to leave aid in Thailand ABS CBN News
National PostBoston GlobeAljazeera.netReuters
all 37 news articles »

Thai News Agency MCOT

Thailand to send more aid to Burma

Bangkok Post –
Speaking after accompanying the new team of doctors to Burma, Mr Chaiya said the Burmese government and people were grateful for the kindness of the royal family and assistance from the government.
2nd group of royal physicians to be dispatched to Myanmar ReliefWeb (press release)
More Thai doctors on way to Burma Bangkok Post
all 6 news articles »

Give aid workers in Myanmar effective access–Pope

Reuters –
The Pope made his indirect appeal in an address to the Catholic bishops of the former Burma, who are winding up a visit to the Vatican, and urged them to be strong in the face of “distress, persecution and famine”.

US senator says India, China must pressure Myanmar’s junta for …

International Herald Tribune –
AP SINGAPORE: Regional superpowers India and China should exert their influence over Myanmar’s generals to push the country toward democracy, a leading US politician said Friday.

Burma cyclone: Junta tells victims to eat frogs –
According to newspaper New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece: “The people (of the Irrawaddy delta) can survive with self-reliant efforts even if they are not given chocolate bars from (the) international community.

Baby born on boat donated to Burma relief by businessman

Scotsman –
A BOAT donated by an Edinburgh businessman to the Burma cyclone relief effort has welcomed its first newborn baby. Pandawlin, weighing 8lbs, was born earlier this week and named after the vessel Pandaw IV and the charity Merlin whose staff helped …

Voice of America

UN Officials Condemn Burma’s Forced Eviction of Cyclone Victims …

Voice of America –
By Luis Ramirez Burma’s military government has begun forcing cyclone victims to leave relief centers and return to their homes in the devastated Irawaddy Delta.


Myanmar lashes foreign aid, says survivors can eat frogs

YANGON (AFP) – Myanmar’s ruling junta lashed out at foreign aid donors Friday, saying cyclone victims did not need supplies of “chocolate bars” and could instead survive by eating frogs and fish.


Seattle Times

Editorial: Burma junta’s crackdown is woefully misguided

San Antonio Express, TX –
Such is the case in Burma (Myanmar), where the incompetence of the ruling junta in responding to Cyclone Nargis has shaken public confidence in the Asian …
Global outrage Bangkok Post
Let Them Eat Frogs Washington Post
Burma arrest condemned Scotsman
ToTheCenter.comEdmonton Sun
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In the words of Naw Htoo Paw, Burmese human rights activist

ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland –
The cyclone that hit Burma (Myanmar) in early May has only complicated an already appalling humanitarian crisis within the country. …


Israel Sends More Aid to Burma and China

Arutz Sheva, Israel –
by Ezra HaLevi ( Israel has dispatched a third shipment of aid to Burma (Myanmar) and another shipment to China, as well, following natural ..


Burma: Junta Attacks Internet Freedom (press release), New Zealand –
According to a recent announcement by Myanmar Teleport, technical changes are being made to prevent the use of proxy servers in Burma. Myanmar Teleport …


China, Korea sign Myanmar energy exploration deal

Reuters UK, UK –
Few Western companies will invest in the former Burma because of its poor human rights record and continued detention of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San …
CNPC, Daewoo join hands to explore Burma EnergyCurrent
China’s CNPC, SKorea’s Daewoo Intl tie up for Myanmar oil/gas … Forbes
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Bishop’s Emergency Appeal for Burma is making a difference

Diocese of Lichfield, UK –
… sent to the Bishop of Lichfield’s Emergency Appeal in response to the Cyclone Nargis crisis in Burma are already making a difference in Myanmar. …


Radio Australia

Myanmar adopts new constitution, Qatar –
Myanmar ‘s government has formally adopted a new national constitution following a heavily-criticised referendum held earlier this month amid the …
Myanmar officially adopts new military-backed constitution International Herald Tribune
Burma’s military says new constitution enacted Radio Australia
Burma’s Military Rulers Put New Constitution into Effect Voice of America
Thaindian.comRTT News
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Sydney Morning Herald

Myanmar: Junta Upset Over Aid Pledges

New York Times, United States –
Last week, Juan José Daboub, the managing director of the World Bank, said the bank would not extend any financial aid to Myanmar because it had not paid …
Burma: cyclone victims can survive on own Melbourne Herald Sun
Junta evicts families from emergency shelters Sydney Morning Herald
Myanmar blasts international donors for not giving more aid Times and Transcript
The Herald


A Lakeville Photographer Saw Makings of Myanmar Problems During …

Litchfield County Times, CT –
Unfortunately, this uprising from the Burmese people (the country was known as Burma until 1989) was relatively short-lived and reached no solid resolution, …