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Getting Aid to Myanmar

Getting Aid to Myanmar

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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There is now a trickle of aid flowing into a devastated Myanmar (we say Myanmar — BBC says Burma — see this excellent explainer for more) — but that trickle doesn't match the flood of refugees in need of food, medicine, shelter, and more. The government there has restricted relief efforts — while complicated arguments about how to help are raging on op-ed pages.

We'll talk with Romesh Ratnesar, the deputy managing editor of Time magazine. In a new, provocative article, he asks, "Is It Time to Invade Burma?" We'll also hear from Bettina Luescher, chief spokeswoman for the World Food Program, and Ko Pyi, a political activist from Myanmar, who fled to the United States seven years ago.

What do you think? Should Myanmar be forced to accept aid — by airdrop, or at gunpoint?



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China is a huge supporter of the Burmese military - have they sent any humanitarian aid???

Sent by maria cox | 2:18 PM | 5-12-2008

not to justify what the leadership is doing in burma, but what if cuba didnt like the way we handled new orleans? should they have invaded to help.

Sent by stephen kilborn | 2:21 PM | 5-12-2008

If my memory is not failing didn't the US refuse international assistance during Hurricane Katrina? This is a sovereign government that we nor the UN any right to force to do anything whether humanitarian or other.

Sent by Ed Maheux (mayhew) | 2:21 PM | 5-12-2008

Tell me, should the US have been forced to accept aid for Hurricane Katrina victims when it failed to respond? Your question posed here is another example of the ends justifying the use of force as the means.

Sent by Polly | 2:23 PM | 5-12-2008

Not at all to minimize this disaster, but can there be no irony in this discussion post-Katrina? Who is anyone in the US to be lecturing another government about 'ridiculously slow' responses and human rights violations?

Sent by Hildy B Kelly | 2:26 PM | 5-12-2008

When Katrina happened other nations asked to help us and our government denied their help. Hundreds of thousands were effected and are still effected, is our government any better than Myanmar? How many nations can we afford to invade? When we can't help our own country?

Sent by treid | 2:28 PM | 5-12-2008

Looks like several other people made the same comment I was going to about the US and Katrina. I'll make my other point then: Do you think perhaps if the US didn't go around invading other countries on small(false) pretexts that perhaps Myanmar would be more cooperative?

Sent by Chris Haun | 2:34 PM | 5-12-2008

Noooo. It is time for us to build bridges not burn them. We should work with their allies and the UN. The US should back off.

Sent by Brently Donaldson | 2:35 PM | 5-12-2008

In WWII we "let Europe handle Hitler", we turned our face to Rwanda, genocide is still occurring in the Sudan. The disaster in Burma would be a reason for a unilateral invasion.

Sent by Ruth | 2:36 PM | 5-12-2008

i'll bet new orleans wouldn't have turned down the aid.

it is difficult to understand everyone's "concern" for all manner of things on the other side of the world while ignoring our own.

san antonio

Sent by robert ruiz | 2:36 PM | 5-12-2008

Hugo Chavvez attempted to aid the City of New Orleans after the US government failed to do so after Katrina. US government refused aid. Should not we respect Burma's decision??

Sent by Steve Lockhart | 2:37 PM | 5-12-2008

Why are we even having this discussion? My heart goes out to the disaster victims and I deeply and sincerely value all life, however, they don't want our help. "They" being the government of course, but they are the recognized authority for that population, whether we agree with it or like it or not. We have enough problems at home that could benefit from this energy, and our resources are already overextended trying to effect change outside our borders. It may seem harsh, but the nature of the situation is harsh in and of itself. "Humanitarian assistance" that arrives at the barrel of a gun is anything but.

Sent by gus cabuso | 2:37 PM | 5-12-2008

This suggestion to attack people is vicious nonsense. Why are you giving such idiotic ideas a platform? Obviously, the Bushies have no corner on war folly!

Sent by Joe Woodside | 2:42 PM | 5-12-2008

This fixation on Burma is irrational. There are other areas where hunger and need is real, and where the governments will welcome any aid given. Yet tons of food and other supplies sit on ships in the Bay of Bengal, or on shore in other nations, benefiting no one while the leaders of Burma play their murderous games. How many African, Haitian, or Bangla Deshi children must starve while we fixate on Burma? Send the aid where it is wanted.

Sent by Jim Wayne | 2:49 PM | 5-12-2008

The ease that the USA demonstrates towards enforcing our "will" upon other nations---all in the name of "Humanitarianism"--is appalling! Imagine that, Reverend Wright, having the audacity to imply that 911 had anything to do with the "chickens have coming home to roost"! I think the world has seen through our lip service to human rights and is holding us accountable for our actions!

Sent by Kim M. | 2:49 PM | 5-12-2008

Peace Be Upon You:
It is interesting that no one spoke of invading America when the ruling hunta refused outside aid during the Katrina crisis

Sent by Kourtni Mulazim | 2:58 PM | 5-12-2008

When I first heard the idea of forcing humanitarian aid by an act of war, I immediately thought of it as an act of sheer, egotistical despotism... but then one of the guests explained the possibility that a government could be SO neglectful of their own peoples' needs that it could be viewed as a trampling of human rights, a sort of "genocide by neglect" (my quotes). While I still agree with the vast majority of comments here today regarding this specific situation in Myanmar, I can at least now comprehend how such a situation COULD (in the right circumstances) warrant a military solution.

Sent by Bruce L | 3:23 PM | 5-12-2008

Any student of Burmese history knows that the current regime, neither derived power from, nor the admiration and respect of the population most severely affected by and at greatest risk of perishing from what is essentially a natural disaster. It should be noted that the regime has been at war with a significant percentage of its population since coming to power, particularly those whom the international community now seeks to assist. The regime regards this natural disaster as a nothing short of supernatural blessing. What it could not do and hide as an act of commission - Genocide as defined by Article 2 of the Genocide Convention against those within its borders whom it detests, it has come to embrace the long awaited hand of nature to do for them, with its acquiescence.

To appreciate the underlying motivation behind of the regime's acts of omission, focus upon the net effect resultant from what they do, but particularly in what they do not. While their technique may appear novel, their objective is not.

In light of the fact that the High Contracting Parties to Genocide Convention have yet to find merit to intervene to prevent Genocide, as mandated pursuant to Article 1 of the Convention when premeditated acts of commission (delayed action in Bosnia and Kosovo, none whatsoever in Rwanda, and little more then rhetorical gymnastics in Darfur to name but a few), any serious student of history will tell you that there is no hope for ethnic minorities whom the Burmese regime has long regarded as inconvenient and disposable. Now sit back, listen to the silence and observe the inaction our respective governments.

Anyone ready to the take to the streets over the price of milk and whole wheat bread?

Sent by mike pellerin | 1:52 PM | 5-14-2008