Preventable deaths, global consequences

(ความตายที่ป้องกันได้ ส่งผลกระเทือนทั่วโลก)

As predicted, survivors of Cyclone Nargis, which ravaged lower Burma on May 2 and 3, are no longer surviving.

Not only in the worst-hit delta areas but also in places close to Rangoon people are suffering from illnesses brought on by dirty water, lack of food and exposure to the elements. On Wednesday, a resident speaking to the Voice of America Burmese Service described the situation:

“In Thanlyin, 43-year-old Ko Aung Kyaw Moe died from cholera, as did a small girl in another village on the ninth. She was in the morgue. Also in Twente, I heard it of two girls. Then in Hpayagyigone village of Thanlyin an entire family of five died. And there’s around seven or eight sick people in the hospital.”

This account may or may not be fully accurate, but it is anyhow backed by many other similar reports from the disaster zones. Together they affirm that people are today dying of what can only be described as the most preventable of deaths — deaths due not to a lack of knowhow, resources or concern, but to an excess of obduracy in a military regime with a record of unremitting and shameless disregard for basic human rights and absolute minimum universal standards.

Under international law, the right to clean drinking water, a decent place to stay and adequate food fall into a special domain that places both positive and negative duties upon governments. What this means is that states must do some things but not others to make sure these rights are upheld.

More specifically, in trade jargon, states are obliged to respect, protect and fulfill fundamental rights. What these three requirements entail, in reverse order, is that authorities must assist people who cannot provide for themselves, must defend the vulnerable from others who may undermine their ability to do so, and at the very least must not do anything to cause people to go hungry, thirsty or homeless.

Often, the problems lie in getting governments to do things that they have not, perhaps because of a lack of money or people, a lack of interest, or maybe because of discriminatory policies. But in certain circumstances, such as those in Burma today, the problem may lie more in getting a government to do nothing at all.

People living in Burma are largely self-reliant. They have to be. By modern standards they generally expect very little of their administrators, and are satisfied if left alone to get by as best they can. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that they are unimpeded, and people who are already hard pressed to meet their own needs are often called upon to contribute to those of the state. Protecting and fulfilling fundamental rights have never been among the regime’s strong points.

Still, never has it sunk so far in its blatant disrespect for the lives and wellbeing of its reluctant subjects than in the past week. Its audacious blockading of cyclone-stricken areas to proffered vital relief, especially technical assistance, far surpasses any of its former acts of self-interested unkindness. Its shabby treatment of United Nations agencies and other reputed international bodies at the cost of its own citizens’ lives has shocked even those used to dealing with it and its agents, as well as those used to hearing of its more routine excesses.

The government’s behavior is also coming as a shock to its own people. In a broadcast on the exile Democratic Voice of Burma radio, a crowd of outraged townsfolk in Laputta this week shouted and cried with palpable anger that approaching two weeks on from the cyclone there are still dead bodies floating in canals, that they have been told to leave shelters and go back to homes that no longer exist, and that they have seen aid being delivered but have not themselves received one iota of it.

The exact number of dead from Cyclone Nargis will never be known. It claimed just too many victims across too wide an area of too disorganized a country for anyone to ever be able to calculate it with certainty. But what can be said with 100 percent certainty is that the number tomorrow will be higher than it was today. And the number next week will be far higher still if, one way or another, help doesn’t get through to those who are in grave danger of dying preventable deaths.

The consequences of doing nothing, or of being unable to do anything, are for the cyclone’s immediate victims clear enough. The dramatic and lasting damage that will be caused to their entire country and its already battered economy can also be foreseen. But beyond these, the effects on the whole world, particularly its disaster relief and human rights movements, should be of special concern.

Failure to address this disaster effectively will establish a monstrous precedent with lasting unwelcome results not only for the people of Burma but for everyone, everywhere. It will be a massive political, legal and humanitarian defeat for us all, but above all, a moral defeat from which it will not be easy to recover. For the sake of Nargis’s victims, their fellow countrymen and women, and for the sake of each and every one of us, this cannot be allowed to happen.

Source: Preventable deaths, global consequences


6 responses to “Preventable deaths, global consequences

  1. BURMA: Worst response ever to a disaster
    AHRC-STM-137-2008, May 16, 2008, Asian Human Rights Commission

    The response of the Burmese regime to the Cyclone Nargis disaster is now acknowledged to be the world’s worst response to a disaster by any state or regime. The Burmese generals, including Senior General Than Shwe, are deliberately avoiding contact with world leaders and other organisations who want to assist the two and half million people in Burma who are in dire need of water, basic food and health care. The most conservative estimates of the death toll so far is between 80,000 to 130,000 persons, but the world’s leaders are unable to even contact General Than Shwe or any of the other generals. It was reported that when some world leaders tried to reach General Than Shwe by telephone the calls were not answered.

    The world must now come to grips with the situation in which the leaders of a regime think that even providing basic materials for survival such as water, food and medicine is a threat to their power. The cost in human lives on such a large scale is no matter of concern to them. Can world opinion and the political will of the rest of the world defeat this completely irresponsible and immoral action of such a regime?

    The indifference to the plight of the people in Burma is not new. It has been over 40 years since the military takeover in which the generals isolated themselves from the world for the preservation of the military rule for the benefit of a few, regardless of the consequences to the rest of the nation. The will of the people expressed by way of the 1988 election, in which Aung San Suu Kyi was elected, was thwarted. The election results were not recognised by the generals and the international efforts to deal with any of the country’s problems since then have been successfully resisted by the regime.

    Now the very survival of millions of people is treated by the generals through this very same strategy of ruling which is the only style of rule they know. Whatever be the consequences to the people facing dire need for water, basic food and medicine is of little concern to a regime since the only disaster they might recognise is the threat to their power.

    Emissaries from outside the country have visited Burma, like the prime minister of Thailand, carrying the messages of others to convince the military regime to take a flexible approach. However, this has been to no avail. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has also been making desperate attempts to get through with some aid. However, that also appears to have lead to no positive actions.

    For many decades the world has met the obstinate resistance of the Burmese regime on all matters that relate to the wellbeing of the people of Burma. The regime has set itself so completely against the people in such a comprehensive manner that perhaps there are very few examples of such behaviour in the history of the modern world. Certainly the reaction to this present disaster is the worst ever.

    But the question is: how will the rest of the world, including the ASEAN countries, India, China and others face this tremendous political and moral challenge. Will the world just watch another humanitarian disaster of the worst magnitude take its toll on the people of Burma?

    A decisive strategy is now needed either to persuade the generals to give access to assistance by aid agencies or to coerce these leaders to do so.

  2. Pingback: The Survivors Are No Longer Surviving In Burma « deathpower

  3. Death toll doubles in Myanmar cyclone, UN still in dark about survivor needs
    The Associated Press, Saturday, May 17, 2008

    YANGON, Myanmar: The official death toll from Myanmar’s killer cyclone nearly doubled to 78,000 as aid workers shackled by the country’s uncooperative military regime struggled to get even the most basic data about the needs of up to 2.5 million desperate survivors.

    Heavy rains lashed much of the area stricken two weeks ago, further hampering already-delayed relief efforts.

    Myanmar state television said late Friday the official death count from the May 3 cyclone was 77,738, with another 55,917 missing.

    The Red Cross warned that the lack of clean water may increase the number of deaths.

    The new toll was nearly double what had been previously reported, but the TV announcement suggested it might be close to a final figure. It said the government had “carried out search and rescue and relief work and collection of data, promptly, immediately and extensively.”

    The U.N. renewed calls for the junta to let international aid workers into devastated areas.

    “More than two weeks after the event, we are at a critical point,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “Unless more aid gets into the country — quickly — we face the risk of an outbreak of infectious diseases that could dramatically worsen today’s crisis.”

    Jean-Maurice Ripert, France’s ambassador to the U.N., criticized the junta for refusing to let a French navy ship deliver 1,500 tons of food and medication to the Irrawaddy delta using small boats.

    He said refusing to let in aid “could lead to a true crime against humanity if we go on like that.”

    Myanmar’s ruling junta, meanwhile, kept a tight lid on information. It put up a security cordon around the country’s largest city, Yangon, to restrict travel despite increasingly urgent calls from international aid organizations for clearance to get their workers to the Irrawaddy delta, where scenes of devastation were rife and corpses lie rotting where they died.

    A small tour to the disaster zone was being arranged for Sunday to give diplomats their first up-close look at the effects of the cyclone and at the highly criticized relief delivery effort by the government.

    John Holmes, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, was also to go to Myanmar to try to convince junta leaders to grant more access to U.N. relief workers and to massively scale up aid efforts, said Amanda Pitt, a U.N. spokeswoman in Bangkok, Thailand.

    “If you look at the situation with China, they have accepted relief and assistance teams from Russia, Taiwan and Japan,” Pitt said, referring to the response to the devastating earthquake there. “They know they can’t do it on their own.”

    Myanmar’s junta has said the opposite — that it has the situation under control. But after two weeks the U.N. remained largely in the dark about the situation on the ground.

    “We simply don’t have the information, and I can’t say when we will have it,” said Steve Marshall, a U.N. official who just came out of Myanmar.

    The Red Cross fears the toll may be as high as 128,000; the U.N. estimates more than 100,000 died. The U.N. also estimates that about 1.5 million to 2.5 million survivors are desperately need food, water, shelter and medical care.

    Myanmar is entering the monsoon season, and disaster experts warn that could complicate relief efforts. Heavy rain pelted the country Friday.

    The situation for the survivors will likely worsen as more time passes without proper help.

    Lack of clean water will be deadly in the Irrawaddy delta, Thomas Gurtner, the head of operations for the international Red Cross, told The Associated Press in Geneva.

    “To be able to provide clean water to hundreds of thousands of people stranded in the delta requires a major operation, which we have neither the material, the logistical nor the staff capacity to do,” he said.

    Officials remained deeply concerned about the possibility of disease outbreaks.

    Earlier, the World Health Organization said a few cases of cholera had been reported. But later Friday, WHO said Myanmar’s Ministry of Health had not detected any cases beyond the norm there.

    The junta has been especially sensitive about the distribution of aid and services by foreign citizens, and particularly with international organizations. It has opened its door just a crack to their help.

    The U.S. military flew four more flights of emergency supplies into Yangon on Friday, raising its total to 17 since Monday. Two of the flights were filled with aid provided by the Thai government. India was also readying flights.

    Louis Michel, the EU commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, said after a two-day visit to Myanmar that he was guardedly optimistic that Myanmar may come around.

    But he said it must be pushed.

    “Every sort of pressure must be brought, every method … must be put forward to make them understand that they must help us to help themselves,” he said.

    The United Nations says the regime has issued only 40 visas to its staffers and another 46 to nongovernment agencies and has confined the personnel to the immediate Yangon area.

    Marshall, the U.N. official, said the military has set up checkpoints on the two main roads to the delta to keep foreigners out of the disaster zone. Even local staff have to negotiate with the military to gain access to the camps.


    Some cholera confirmed in cyclone-hit Myanmar
    Fri May 16, 2008 2:09pm BST

    BANGKOK (Reuters) – An international aid agency has confirmed some cases of cholera in Myanmar’s cyclone-hit Irawaddy delta but the number was in line with normal levels in previous years, an aid official said on Friday.

    “We do have some confirmed cholera,” World Health Organization representative Maureen Birmingham told a news conference in Bangkok. She was speaking on behalf of around 30 health groups trying to get medical aid into the delta, where cholera is endemic.

    “We don’t have an explosion of cholera. Thus far the rate of cholera is no greater than the background rate that we would be seeing in Myanmar during this season,” she said.

    A network was still being set up to monitor for diseases among 2.5 million people severely affected by the cyclone that tore through the delta two weeks ago, she said.

    Diarrhea, dysentery and skin infections have afflicted some cyclone refugees crammed into monasteries, schools and other temporary shelters after the devastating May 2 storm.

    The first sign of cholera, which is spread by drinking contaminated dirty water, is “rice water” Diarrhea leading to chronic dehydration and possibly death within a few hours.

    Without treatment, it can spread rapidly through populations of displaced people and kill as many as one in two victims.

    The WHO has sent emergency health kits to the devastated region and was providing bleach and chlorine tablets to treat dirty water.

    Corpses are still rotting along the banks of the Irrawaddy river two weeks after the disaster which killed up to 128,000, but the WHO said they pose no risk to public health.

    “There has never been a documented case of a post-natural disaster epidemic that could be traced to dead bodies,” the WHO said in a statement.

    It said the peak danger period is between 10 days and one month after a natural disaster due to the heightened threat of unsafe food, dirty water and poor hygiene and sanitation in overcrowded shelters.

    “It is how the survivors are managed, rather than how the dead are managed, that determines if and when an epidemic may occur,” the WHO said.

    (Reporting by Ed Cropley; Writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Jerry Norton)

  4. Save the Children Warns of Starvation in Burma
    By RAPHAEL G. SATTER / ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER Monday, May 19, 2008, The Irrawaddy

    Thousands of children in Burma could die of starvation within two or three weeks, a British charity said on Sunday.

    Save the Children UK said its research showed that an estimated 30,000 children under five years of age in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta were already acutely malnourished even before Cyclone Nargis tore through the region—and that several thousand among them are now at risk of death.

    “With hundreds of thousands of people still not receiving aid, many of these children will not survive much longer,” the charity said in a statement. “Children may already be dying as a result of a lack of food.”

    Humanitarian aid agency Action Against Hunger described the situation in the Bogalay region of the delta where it was working as “extremely alarming,” saying the priority of every survivor they surveyed there was to find enough food to eat.

    “All day long, people are looking for food and for a way of cooking the food they find,” the group said in a statement. “For over 15 days, the survivors have mainly been feeding themselves with wild fruits, vegetables and moldy rice, which they are trying to dry.”

    The group said the price of rice had quadrupled since the cyclone struck the country and that some people were already starving.

    More than two weeks after the cyclone devastated Burma, aid agencies have hit out at government restrictions preventing them from reaching the worse-hit areas.

    Heavy rains since the storm have also hindered relief efforts, and relief agencies say inhabitants are suffering from a shortage of safe water and proper sanitation. The United Nations and other agencies say that lack of proper aid could dramatically worsen the crisis.

    Save the Children said Burma’s long-term food security had been jeopardized by the cyclone because many farmers were prevented from sowing seeds for the harvest, while Action Against Hunger said most fishermen had lost all their fishing equipment.

    Britain’s Department for International Development said it had reports of “extensive damage” to agriculture in the area, warning that the loss of the country’s November harvest was possible as the planting season is due to end within five to seven weeks.

    Burma’s state-run television has said the cyclone death toll is around 78,000 with about 56,000 missing. Aid groups say those estimates are too low, and Britain has cited unofficial estimates that some 217,000 people are dead or missing.

  5. ความตายที่ป้องกันได้ ส่งผลกระเทือนทั่วโลก
    (Preventable deaths, global consequences)

    เรียบเรียง โดย อ้น นิลแดง

    เป็นไปตามคาด ว่าผู้รอดชีวิตจากไซโคลนนาร์กีส ซึ่งโหมกระหน่ำพม่า เมื่อวันที่ ๒ และ ๓ พฤษภาคมนั้น กำลังจะไม่รอดชีวิต ผู้คนทั้งจากพื้นที่ปากแม่น้ำที่ได้รับผลกระทบอย่างรุนแรง และพื้นที่อื่นๆ ใกล้กรุงย่างกุ้งกำลังประสบกับภาวะเจ็บป่วย จากน้ำที่สกปรก อาหารที่ไม่เพียงพอ และการติดเชื้อ เมื่อวันพุธที่ผ่านมา ชาวพม่าคนหนึ่งให้สัมภาษณ์ไว้ว่า

    “เมื่อวันที่ ๙ ที่ Thanlyin, Ko Aung Kyaw Moe และเด็กหญิงอีกคนหนึ่ง ตายด้วยอหิวาตกโรค ขณะนี้อยู่ที่สุสาน ใน Twente ก็เช่นเดียวกัน ได้ยินว่ามีเด็กหญิงอีกสองคน แล้วก็ที่หมู่บ้าน Hpayagyigone ที่เมือง Thanlyin ก็มีคนตายยกครอบครัว ๕ ราย ส่วนอีก ๗ หรือ ๘ คนยังรักษาตัวอยู่ในโรงพยาบาล”

    ตัวเลขนี้อาจจะเป็นที่แน่ชัดหรืออาจจะผิดพลาด แต่มีรายงานที่ คล้ายคลึงกันนี้จากพื้นที่ประสบภัย พวกเขาต่างยืนยันตรงกันว่า ขณะนี้ผู้คนกำลังตายจากสาเหตุ ที่ป้องกันได้ง่ายที่สุด ไม่ได้ตายจากความรู้เท่าไม่ถึงการณ์ ขาดทรัพยากร หรือถูกทอดทิ้ง แต่พวกเขาต้องตายเพราะความดื้อดึงเกินขอบเขต ของระบอบทหารอันเลื่องชื่อในแง่ที่ไม่เคยแยแส (อย่างหน้าไม่อายและไม่หยุดหย่อน) ต่อสิทธิมนุษยชนพื้นฐาน หรือหลักการสากลแม้แต่ในขั้นต่ำที่สุด

    ภายใต้กฎหมายระหว่างประเทศ สิทธิในการมีน้ำดื่มที่สะอาด มีที่อยู่อาศัยที่เหมาะสม และมีอาหารเพียงพอนั้น กลายเป็นประเด็นสำคัญ ที่เป็นภาระทั้งในแง่บวก และแง่ลบของรัฐบาล นั่นหมายความว่ารัฐต้องทำการบางอย่าง และไม่ทำการอื่นๆ เพื่อให้แน่ใจว่าสิทธิเหล่านี้ได้รับการคุ้มครอง

    พูดให้เฉพาะเจาะจงยิ่งขึ้น ในโลกแห่งการค้า รัฐต่างๆ จำต้องเคารพ ปกป้อง และเติมเต็มสิทธิขั้นพื้นฐาน ในแง่กลับกัน สิ่งที่ตามมาจากหน้าที่ทั้งสามนี้คือหน่วยงานรัฐ จะต้องช่วยเหลือผู้คนซึ่ง ไม่สามารถช่วยเหลือตัวเองได้ จะต้องปกป้องผู้ที่อ่อนแอ จากการถูกผู้อื่นลิดรอนความสามารถ ที่จะปกป้องตัวเอง และอย่างน้อยที่สุดจะต้องไม่ทำการใดๆ ที่ทำให้ผู้คนหิวโหย กระหายน้ำ หรือไร้ที่อยู่อาศัย

    บ่อยครั้ง ปัญหาอยู่ที่การผลักดันให้รัฐบาลทำสิ่ง ที่พวกเขาไม่ได้ทำ บางทีอาจเป็นเพราะไม่มีเงิน กำลังคน ไม่มีความสนใจ หรืออาจเป็นเพราะนโยบายกีดกันบางอย่าง แต่ในบางกรณี ดังเช่นที่เกิดขึ้นกับพม่าในวันนี้ ปัญหาอยู่ที่ การผลักดันให้รัฐบาลไม่ต้องทำอะไรเลย

    ประชาชนส่วนใหญ่ในพม่านั้นอยู่อย่างพึ่งตนเอง เพราะมีความจำเป็น ตามมาตรฐานสมัยนี้ พวกเขาตั้งความหวังในตัวผู้ปกครอง ไว้น้อยมาก และพึงพอใจหากถูกปล่อยให้ใช้ชีวิตตามยถากรรม แต่โชคร้าย มีน้อยครั้งมากที่พวกเขาจะ ไม่โดนขัดขวาง และผู้คนที่ต้องดิ้นรนอย่างเต็มที่เพื่อสนอง ความต้องการของตนเองอยู่แล้ว ก็มักจะถูกเรียกร้องให้สนอง ความต้องการของรัฐด้วย การปกป้องและการเติมเต็มสิทธิขั้นพื้นฐาน ไม่เคยเป็นประเด็นสำคัญสำหรับรัฐบาล

    อย่างไรก็ดี ไม่เคยมีครั้งไหนที่ความไม่แยแสต่อชีวิต และความผาสุกของประชาชนผู้ไม่เป็นที่รักจะตกต่ำลงเท่า กับในอาทิตย์ที่ผ่านมา การปิดกั้นพื้นที่ที่ได้รับผลกระทบ จากไซโคลนอย่างเข้มงวด ไม่ให้ได้รับการบรรเทาทุกข์ที่จำเป็น โดยเฉพาะความช่วยเหลือเฉพาะด้าน ย่ำแย่กว่าท่าทีไร้ความปรานี เพื่อประโยชน์ของตนเองในแบบที่ผ่านๆ มาอยู่หลายขุมนัก พฤติกรรมที่ไม่ไว้หน้าองค์กรของสหประชาชาติ และองค์กรระหว่างประเทศระดับแถวหน้าหลายองค์กร โดยมีชีวิตของผู้คนเป็นเดิมพัน สร้างความตกตะลึงให้เกิดขึ้นกระทั่งในกลุ่มคนที่เคยติดต่อกับ รัฐบาลและหน่วยงานของรัฐ รวมไปถึงพวกที่เคยได้ยินความร้ายกาจ อย่างเป็นนิจมาบ้างแล้ว

    พฤติกรรมของรัฐบาลยังทำให้ประชาชนเองตกตะลึงด้วย กระจายข่าวของ วิทยุพลัดถิ่นเสียงประชาธิปไตยแห่งพม่า (Democratic Voice of Burma) รายงานว่าอาทิตย์ที่ผ่านมา กลุ่มชาวบ้านผู้เดือดพล่านในลาบุตตา ตะโกนและร่ำร้องด้วยความโกรธแค้น อย่างถึงที่สุด ว่าผ่านมาสองอาทิตย์แล้วตั้งแต่พายุถล่ม ยังมีศพมากมายลอยอยู่ในลำคลอง ว่าพวกเขาต้องออกจากที่หลบภัย เพื่อที่จะกลับไปพบว่าไม่มีบ้านเหลืออยู่ และว่าความช่วยเหลือถูกส่งมาแล้ว แต่พวกเขาเองไม่ได้รับเลยแม้แต่เศษเสี้ยว

    ตัวเลขที่แน่ชัดของผู้เสียชีวิต จากพายุนาร์กีสคงไม่มีวันเป็นที่สรุป มีเหยื่อที่ได้รับผลกระทบมากเกินไป ในพื้นที่ที่กว้างขวางเกินไป ในประเทศที่ไร้ระบบระเบียบเกินกว่า ที่ใครจะสามารถคำนวณตัวเลขได้อย่างแน่ใจ แต่สิ่งที่สามารถบอกได้อย่างแน่ใจเกินร้อยเปอร์เซ็นต์คือ ตัวเลขในวันพรุ่งนี้จะต้องสูงกว่าในวันนี้แน่นอน และตัวเลขในอาทิตย์หน้าก็จะสูงขึ้น หากว่าความช่วยเหลือไม่สามารถถูกส่งผ่าน ไม่ว่าโดยทางใดทางหนึ่ง ไปยังผู้คนที่สุ่มเสี่ยงเป็นอย่างยิ่ง ที่จะต้องตายจากสาเหตุที่ป้องกันได้
    ผลสืบเนื่องที่เกิดจากการ ไม่ทำอะไรเลย หรือความไม่สามารถที่จะทำอะไรบางอย่าง ปรากฏชัดเจนเพียงพอสำหรับเหยื่อฉับพลันจากพายุ ความเสียหายที่รุนแรง และเรื้อรังอันจะเกิดขึ้นกับทั้งประเทศ และกับเศรษฐกิจที่ง่อนแง่นเป็นทุนเดิมอยู่แล้วนั้น เป็นสิ่งที่ทำนายได้เช่นกัน แต่นอกเหนือไปจากนี้ ผลกระทบต่อโลกทั้งใบ โดยเฉพาะด้านการบรรเทาสาธารณภัย และความเคลื่อนไหวด้านสิทธิมนุษยชน ก็ควรได้รับความสำคัญเป็นพิเศษ

    ความล้มเหลวในการจัดการกับภัยพิบัติครั้งนี้ ได้อย่างมีประสิทธิผล จะสร้างให้เกิดรูปแบบอันชั่วร้าย ซึ่งนำไปสู่ผลอันไม่พึงประสงค์ในระยะยาว ทั้งต่อประชาชนของพม่าเองและต่อทุกคน ในทุกแห่งหน มันจะเป็นความพ่ายแพ้อย่างใหญ่หลวงในทางการเมือง ทางกฎหมาย และทางมนุษยธรรมต่อเราทุกคน แต่เหนือสิ่งอื่นใด คือความพ่ายแพ้ในทางจริยธรรม ซึ่งไม่ใช่เรื่องง่ายที่จะเยียวยา เพื่อประโยชน์ของเหยื่อพายุนาร์กีส เพื่อนร่วมชาติทั้งชายหญิงของพวกเขา และเพื่อประโยชน์ของพวกเราทุกๆ คน เราจะต้องไม่ปล่อยให้มันเกิดขึ้น

  6. Myanmar cyclone victims die waiting for help
    From a Times Staff Writer, May 30, 2008, LA Times

    PA DEWE GAW, MYANMAR — Tropical Cyclone Nargis didn’t kill Ma Thein Hlaing. Neglect did.

    She was in the village monastery, reciting Buddha’s canons day and night in the five-day ceremony of pahtan, as the storm gathered strength over the ocean close enough to see from her riverbank village.

    The cyclone struck like a ferocious beast clawing at its prey. Thein Hlaing, 56, cowered inside with 19 other worshipers who fought to hold on against a rising flood.

    The monastery began to break apart and a large stereo speaker toppled onto her, forcing her head under the surging seawater.

    Several men heaved the teak speaker off. But when the 12-hour tempest had subsided May 3, her 19-year-old son, Saw Ko, had disappeared along with the splintered pieces of the family home.

    Thein Hlaing was still conscious. She needed a doctor, but in a flattened village with no boats left, her husband, Ko Myint So, had no way to get her to one.

    He watched the horizon, hoping help would come from one of the nearby military bases guarding the southern coast of Myanmar, also known as Burma. It never did. More than three weeks after the storm struck, no one from the government, neither soldiers nor civilians, has come here.

    In the early days after the storm, as the military government insisted that it had everything under control and shunned most foreign relief aid, the armed forces moved slowly to assist hundreds of thousands of survivors stranded in devastated Irrawaddy River Delta villages.

    The government estimates that the cyclone killed 78,000 people, and that an additional 56,000 are missing. The number of injured survivors isn’t known yet. Many survivors are only now being reached as civilian relief workers push farther into isolated areas.

    For days, Thein Hlaing lay in pain, pleading with her husband to do something. Each time one of the few remaining civilian vessels plying the river passed the village, he and neighbors frantically shouted and waved from the ruins.

    On the fourth day after the cyclone, the crew of a fishing boat stopped at the remnants of the village dock. It would take almost three more hours to reach the nearest hospital, 25 miles northeast, in the town of Bogalay.

    Thein Hlaing held on long enough to reach the jetty in Bogalay, a military relief hub. She was still alive when villagers eased her onto a stretcher and took a few hurried steps along wooden planks toward the main hospital, her husband and other witnesses said.

    She passed away before reaching solid ground again.

    “My wife talked a little bit on the way, and just a few minutes before she died, she said, ‘My eyes can see clearly now,’ ” recalled Myint So, 53. “Then she just closed her eyes. And she was gone.”

    “She didn’t have to die,” he said, looking down at weathered hands flecked with mud. “She just didn’t get help in time.”

    Nwet Nwet Win, the village nurse and midwife, was in Bogalay when the storm barreled ashore. She worked at the town’s hospital until the chief doctor announced that any staff with homes to return to could leave on Sunday.

    The nurse said the first patients from outlying villages began arriving at the hospital four days after the cyclone. She knows of 30 who died, mainly children and the elderly.

    “Many people died on the way to the hospital,” she said.

    As if a giant hand had swept across the land, the cyclone razed hundreds of villages in the southern delta and deposited the debris along the eastern shores of islands and riverbanks for miles.

    To signal relief boats, survivors squatting in makeshift shelters who are trying to stay dry in the daily monsoon deluge have raised tattered pieces of cloth on trees stripped of their branches by the winds.

    In one long stretch of broken planks, tree limbs and other wreckage along the shore of Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary, a small statue of a local spirit, a protector on horseback called U Shin Hyi, is the only thing in one piece and still standing.

    Burmese staff from U.N. relief agencies reached this village Tuesday, along with several cartons of food and other supplies delivered by Buddhist monks. But without fuel and a pump to clean the reservoir, or some other way to provide clean water, an outbreak of disease is a constant danger, Nwet Nwet Win said.

    “I’m very worried,” the nurse said. “All I can do is tell people to boil the water.”

    The United Nations and foreign relief agencies say they already have or are ready to deliver equipment to purify large amounts of water in Myanmar, but need to bring in more experts to determine the best places to set up the machines and keep them running.

    The military regime has issued dozens of visas to foreign relief workers since top leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at a weekend meeting that all nations were welcome to send help.

    Many more aid workers are waiting to get in, along with tons of food, medicine, building materials and other supplies, for a relief effort to support about 2.4 million people. Ban said survivors would need support for at least six more months.

    The government, which has urged storm victims to be self-reliant, insists that the relief phase is complete and says it has moved on to reconstruction.

    But for survivors like Myint So, what to do next remains unclear.

    Before the cyclone, he had made a comfortable living making small, low-interest loans to villagers through his micro-credit bank, financed with capital from his son. Now, like most people in the delta, Myint So is broke.

    He couldn’t pay for his wife’s funeral, so volunteers took care of it for him, burying her in Bogalay. He lives in a leaky shack smaller than a garden shed, which he hammered together from snapped tree trunks and clear plastic tarps.

    He can’t stop thinking about the woman he loved and what could have been done to save her life.

    “Before she died, I was a fit and strong guy,” he said. “But I haven’t slept a single night since then. I’m getting thinner and thinner every day.”

    He paused for a moment to recall his fondest memory of Thein Hlaing, and he smiled.

    “The thing I miss most about my wife is the way she talked, the way she moved,” he said. “She was a guiding star for me.”

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