Myanmar state television says cyclone death toll nears 78,000

Myanmar state television says

cyclone death toll nears 78,000

 

State television reports the official death toll from Myanmar’s devastating cyclone earlier this month has climbed to 77,738.

The figure was broadcast Friday night. It was nearly double the figure released a day earlier by the military government.

The official count for the missing also soared to 55,917 – from a figure of 27,838 that had been announced for the past few days.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimated Wednesday that the total death toll may be as many as 128,000. The UN has said more than 100,000 may have died.

freep.com

Cyclone death toll nears 78,000, Myanmar says

56,000 people remain missing

ASSOCIATED PRESS • May 16, 2008

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar government television says the cyclone’s official death toll has nearly doubled to almost 78,000.

The official count for the missing that was broadcast Friday night Myanmar time also soared to almost 56,000.

The United Nations has said that more than 100,000 may have died. An estimated 1.6 million to 2.5 million people are in urgent need of food, water and shelter, the U.N. and the Red Cross say.

 

The Failed States Index 2007

The Failed States Index 2007

By The Fund for Peace and FOREIGN POLICY magazine

It is an accepted axiom of the modern age that distance no longer matters. ….

 A hermit leader’s erratic behavior not only makes life miserable for the impoverished millions he rules but also upends the world’s nuclear nonproliferation regime. The threats of weak states, in other words, ripple far beyond their borders and endanger the development and security of nations that are their political and economic opposites.

 What makes these alarming headlines all the more troubling is that their origins lie in weak and failing states. World leaders and the heads of multilateral institutions routinely take to lecterns to reiterate their commitment to pulling vulnerable states back from the brink, but it can be difficult to translate damage control into viable, long-term solutions that correct state weaknesses. Aid is often misspent. Reforms are too many or too few. Security needs overwhelm international peacekeepers, or chaos reigns in their absence.

The complex phenomenon of state failure may be much discussed, but it remains little understood. The problems that plague failing states are generally all too similar:

  • rampant corruption,
  • predatory elites who have long monopolized power,
  • an absence of the rule of law,
  • and severe ethnic or religious divisions.

But that does not mean that the responses to their problems should be cut from the same cloth. Failing states are a diverse lot.

  • Burma and Haiti are two of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International,
  • and yet Burma’s repressive junta persecutes ethnic minorities and subjects its population to forced resettlement…..

 but it may also be a key indicator of stability.

  • Vulnerable states display a greater degree of religious intolerance, according to scores calculated by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.
  • Persecution of religious minorities in Burma, Bangladesh, Iran, and Uzbekistan has deprived millions of faithful of the freedom to follow their beliefs.
  • But religious repression is often nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to muzzle the country’s civil society. 
  • It seems the leaders of many failing states distrust any higher power that may be greater than their own.

 

The world’s weakest states are also the most religiously intolerant. Countries with a poor freedom of religion score are often most likely to meet their maker.

Look at the original/clear/big/complete graph here

This year, several vulnerable states took a step back from the brink.

Leading the Way to the Bottom

 Likewise, effective leadership can pull a state back from the brink. Indonesia’s first directly elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has helped steer the country, long marred by endemic corruption and devastated by the 2004 tsunami, toward greater stability since coming into office three years ago. He has initiated reform of the country’s crooked security sector, negotiated a peace agreement with rebels in Aceh Province, and made moderate improvements in government services. These efforts haven’t necessarily made him popular. But then, such leadership is exactly what more failing states need: a head of state who chooses continued reforms over his own power and recognition.

Nature vs. Nurture

Long Division

What holds back many of the world’s most fragile regimes is that they were never truly in charge in the first place.

 

When it comes to assessing state failure, some countries emerge with split personalities. That is, states may be the picture of stability, peace, and economic growth in some areas, yet no-go zones in others. A dozen countries among the 60 most vulnerable contain “virtual states,” areas that are essentially self-governing, but claimed by the central government.

 Governments will often go to great lengths to regain such breakaway regions, and their efforts can be tremendously costly. A brutal 2002 civil war aimed at retaking the rebel-held northern half of the Ivory Coast split the country in two, blunting its otherwise impressive economic growth and leaving thousands of U.N. forces to keep the peace. In Pakistan, government efforts to crack down on suspected al Qaeda operatives in the restive border regions have led to violent protests. And attempts by the Sri Lankan government to regain territory from the Tamil Tigers last year sparked some of the worst violence in the country in years.

History is full of brutal leaders who have plunged their lands into poverty and war through greed, corruption, and violence. And though many events—natural disasters, economic shocks, an influx of refugees from a neighboring country—can lead to state failure, few are as decisive or as deadly as bad leadership.

 To provide a clearer picture of the world’s weakest states, The Fund for Peace, an independent research organization, and FOREIGN POLICY present the third annual Failed States Index.

Using 12 social, economic, political, and military indicators, we ranked 177 states in order of their vulnerability to violent internal conflict and societal deterioration. The index scores are based on data from more than 12,000 publicly available sources collected from May to December 2006. The 60 most vulnerable states are listed in the rankings, and full results are available at www.ForeignPolicy.com and www.fundforpeace.org.

The vast majority of the states listed in the index have not yet failed;

  • they exhibit severe weaknesses that leave them vulnerable,
  • especially to shocks such as natural disasters,
  • war,
  • and economic deprivation.

The power of such events should not be underestimated.

But while these states’ failings may be frequent fodder for headlines around the world, it is obvious that there are few easy answers to their troubles.

In highlighting which states are at the greatest risk of failure, we can only hope that more effective and long-term solutions emerge over time as we compare the index from year to year. In that way, positive reversals of fortune can occur for the world’s most vulnerable nations and, in the process, improve the security and prosperity of everyone.

  • The world’s weakest states are also the most religiously intolerant.
  • Countries with a poor freedom of religion score are often most likely to meet their maker.

 Freedom of worship may be a cornerstone of democracy,

Look at the original/clear/big/complete table here 

 

After Nargis, security dilemma

After Nargis, security dilemma

Article by Josh Hong on May 16, 08 in Malaysiakini

The real tragedy in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in Burma_

  • lies not in the scale of the damage
  • and the number of lives lost,
  • but in the utter failure of the military junta to respond to the catastrophe,
  • practically creating more deaths through its inaction.

Despondent at the inertia of the Burmese authorities, a friend of mine asked: Is Burma now a failed state?

I had no clear answer to that, but this question did prompt me into deeper thought on the issue.

Foreign Policy and the Fund For Peace publish their joint index of failed states on an annual basis, and in their latest publication, Burma ranks as the 14th country on the alert list.

The index defines a failed state as_

  • one in which the ruling authorities are no longer in a position to maintain the state’s territorial integrity,
  • set to lose the monopoly of regular and legitimate forces,
  • and incapable of collective decision,
  • causing the general population to resort to underground economy for survival.

Which is weird because Burma, or Burma Proper at least, is not a state that is being confronted with territorial disintegration. While there are pockets of conflicts posed by secessionist, ethnic rebels, most notably the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), military wings of the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIA) respectively, the notorious Burmese military, known as Tatmadaw in Burmese, remains undefeatable.

While it is true that black market economy is booming, especially in the areas bordering China, India and Thailand, economic participation, legal or illegal alike, by the Burmese population at large is still insignificant, as the militarization of the socialist state has ensured that only the military-linked elites are in control of the economy.

 

Four critical responsibilities

Going by the criteria provided by Foreign Policy and the Fund For Peace, it seems to me several countries are clear-cut examples of a failed state: Somalia, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and, of course, Iraq.

While I am skeptical about the failed states index, another report, the Index of State Weakness in the Developing World, prepared by Susan E Rice of the Brookings Institution and Stewart Patrick of the Center for Global Development, has caught my attention.

In this informative document, the two authors define “weak states as_

  • countries that lack the essential capacity
  • and/or will to fulfill four sets of critical government responsibilities:
  1. fostering an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable economic growth;
  2. establishing and maintaining legitimate, transparent, and accountable political institutions;
  3. securing their populations from violent conflict and controlling their territory;
  4. and meeting the basic human needs of their populations”.

 

Accordingly, the world’s three weakest states: Somalia, Afghanistan and the Congo, are also failed states, while another 25 countries are “critically weak states”, including Iraq (4), North Korea (15) and Burma (17).

The document also finds that some of the critically weak states have experienced longstanding violent conflict, such as Burma and Nepal. Meanwhile, five of them have seen military action by the United States in their territories: Somalia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Liberia and, needless to say, Iraq.

It is not entirely coincidental that these failed or failing states have tasted war waged by the US. In fact, tackling weak or critically weak states has become a core part of the revised military logic of the successive US administrations since the end of the Cold War. Over the years, the CIA and the National Intelligence Council have consistently argued that state failure and ungoverned spaces are among the international security threats to strong states such as the US. Pre-emptive strike or other forms of international action would therefore be legitimate.

Due to its geopolitical strategic values, Nepal, a Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between China and India, once received substantial military assistance form the US to drive out the Maoist rebels. Thousands of Nepalese died since 1996, partly thanks to the arrival of American M-16 submachine guns at the disposal of Kathmandu. ()

Back to Burma. Washington’s recent focus on the military junta cannot be simply explained as a will to “do good”, hoping to find a way out for the suffering Burmese populace. As the case of Iraq has taught us, there is no such thing as just war.

Since 2005, the Bush administration has been actively lobbying international organizations, ranging from the United Nations to other human rights groups, to apply greater pressure on Rangoon, the recruitment of child soldiers by Tatmadaw being a favorite issue raised by Washington time and time again.

But is the military junta the only one exploiting children in this manner?

Mistrust aggravated

Last year, Human Rights Watch published a detailed and excellent report on the recruitment of child soldiers in Burma. It is telling that the several major ethnic insurgent groups, including the United Wa State Army, the KNLA, the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), are all implicated in this dirty and evil business, alongside the Burmese junta.

Other sources meanwhile reveal that the US has provided financial support to the KNLA and the SSA-S in the past. Such action is indeed perfectly in line with the US’ attempt to manipulate the failed state concept to its own advantage.

It is worth reminding here that, in the 1970s, thousands of ethnic Hmongs in Laos – including minors – were lured by the CIA to fight against the communists, and abandoned to their fate after the adventure failed.

I have just finished reading The River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma, by Thant Myint-U, grandson of former UN secretary-general U Thant, after whom Jalan U Thant is named.

Weaving family stories into the grand narrative of a country steeped in history and tradition, the author seeks to explain that Burma has never been a functioning, well-defined nation state, not even in the pre-colonial times when the country was ruled by warrior kings and characterized by incessant wars with its neighbours.

The British creation of a modern Burma by incorporating territories and nations that had never shared a common history with the Burmese kingdom has only aggravated the ethnic mistrust, and subjected the minority groups to decades of oppression alongside the Burmans. The civil war in the border areas has also been open to exploitation by outside forces, ie. China, India and the US.

Thant goes as far as to suggest no amount of foreign pressure will change the behavior of the military junta, who sees itself nothing but a reincarnation of the past warrior kings.

This, perhaps, explains the hesitation of the ruling authorities in granting permits for foreigners to enter the country on humanitarian grounds. After all, the Burmese warrior kings hardly had the welfare of the people at heart.

I certainly hope rational will prevail in Burma, and aid be sent in to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis. However, without understanding this unique history of Burma and the hostile international climate, it is impossible to make sense of the intransigence of the Burmese military junta.

Photos: TIME-2

Photos: TIME-2

Time Magazine

Homeless refugee families

At Their Mercy
Refugees wait at a monastery in the town of Kyaiklat. With millions of U.S. aid dollars waiting in the wings, the government has said it will allow

Makeshift shelter at Thar Yar Wae village

Making Do
Over 200,000 people are thought to be living in makeshift shelters along the coast, like this one at Thar Yar Wae village near Bogalay.

Kyaiklat town

Pulling Together
People starting to rebuild on their own in Kyaiklat on May 9.

Monks go in procession to collect alms

Blind Faith
Monks go in procession to collect their daily alms in a village near Rangoon on May 11.

A destroyed home

Sunk
A destroyed home lies in the water in a village near Rangoon on May 11.

Destroyed hut at Ta Lak Gyi village

Getting By
A man and his wife wade through the waters near their destroyed hut at Ta Lak Gyi village on May 8.

A sign urging citizens t be patriotic

True Believers
A sign urges citizens to be patriotic near the Shwe Maw Daw stupa in Bago on May 10. International agencies have called on China to exert its influence over the Burmese government to accept foreign aid and put a brake to the evolving disaster.

A body floats at the Irrawaddy river

Drowning
A corpse floats at the Irrawaddy river front in the town of Bogalay.

 

Photos from TIME 1

                                                  Waiting to Save Burma

TIME

the Irrawaddy river

Devastated
A remains of a home teeter on the edge of the Irrawaddy River front in Bogalay, Burma, where official reports say 30,000 people have been killed in a cyclone that ravaged the nation on May 2.

Damage in Bogalay

Wiped Out
Villages like Bogalay, pictured here on May 9, were torn to the ground by Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in the southeast Asian nation’s modern history.

Farmers try to salvage the rice crop

Salvaging
Farmers in Thar Yar Wae village, on the road to Bogalay, try to save what they can of their rice crop by drying it on the road on May 8.

Rice distribution

Trying to Keep Hunger at Bay
Rice is distributed at a monastery at Phayargyi village near Rangoon on May 11, as the ruling junta started to allow a trickle of food aid into the country a full week after the cyclone hit.

Cyclone affected people cook barley rice

On Their Own
Cyclone victims cook barley rice in the Ywan Chyan Kone township near Rangoon on May 11. As of Monday, less than 10 shipments from the World Food Program had been delivered.

Damage in Bogalay

Powerless
Damaged electrical wires dangle over the road in Bogalay on May 9. Foreign aid workers still have not been allowed in to help.

People queue to get clean water

At Risk
People line up for clean water in Kyaiklat, on the road to Bogalay. Relief groups have said up to half a million buckets for clean water are needed in the nation, according the Wall Street Journal

A destroyed temple at Pyin Taung Su village

Perfect Storm
A destroyed temple at Pyin Taung Su village sinks into the water on the bank of the U Yin Chaung River. On Sunday, Oxfam said Burma faces a “public health catastrophe” due to lack of water, food, and new storms expected this week.

Homeless refugee families

Waiting
Refugees at a monastery in the town of Kyaiklat on May 8. Health officials say up to 1.5 million people are now at risk of deadly disease if aid continues to be blocked.

Winds of Change

Winds of Change

Newsweek.com

Cyclone Nargis may have done more than just wreck Burma’s cities.

It may also spell doom for the government.

More PHOTOS in Newsweek

The Horror after the Rain

 Burma deaths spiral as aid is blocked

The massive storm that hit Burma on May 2 could not have come at a worse time for the generals who rule the country. As Cyclone Nargis raged toward them across the Indian Ocean, Burma’s military government was busy preparing for a referendum—originally scheduled for May 10—they hoped would ratify a new constitution legalizing military rule.

In fact, the generals were so preoccupied with making sure their new charter would pass smoothly that they played down urgent warnings from India and others of the impending cyclone, according to foreign wire reports. That delay would prove fatal to legions of their subjects who were caught unawares. Now, with roughly 17,330 square kilometers of Burma underwater and tens of thousands confirmed dead, the generals have reluctantly agreed to postpone balloting in two of the worst-hit provinces—but, incredibly, have insisted it will go as planned in the country’s north.

Yet even if the vote passes, the ruthless soldiers who have ruled this Asian state since 1962 may have made their final blunder—or at least started a process that will lead to their eventual downfall.

From Mexico City to Managua to the Middle Kingdom_

  • natural disasters in the past have had a way of undermining ruthless and incompetent leaders.
  • The process can take years.
  • But once set in motion, the forces unleashed by a destructive natural event—
  • and a ham-handed government response—can prove as unstoppable as an actual tsunami.

Just how badly Burma has suffered is still hard to determine, since the xenophobic and paranoid regime has accepted only a trickle of international aid and denied visas to virtually all foreign journalists. But the official count of the dead and missing already exceeded 60,000 as of this writing and was expected to grow. More than 1 million Burmese have lost their homes, and Shari Villarosa, the top U.S. diplomat in the country, warned last week that the lack of food, medicine, clean water and other basic needs could bring the death toll to 100,000. World Food Program spokesperson Paul Risley said the victims’ needs were so vast that they’ve been like trying to fill a bathtub with an eyedropper.”

Meanwhile, the government seems to have gone missing in action.

  • The 400,000-strong military kept an unusually low profile last week, suggesting serious dysfunction at the top.
  • Sr. Gen. Tan Shwe, the nation’s leader, was nowhere to be seen.
  • Buddhist monks and nuns appeared to be spearheading community clean-up campaigns—
  • although state censors instructed the media to report only on military relief efforts.

But some troops seemed more concerned with social control than social welfare.

  • Instead of helping emergency services, for example,
  • some soldiers conducted surveillance of local NGO staffers who were offering free funeral services to the bereaved families, according to Aung Zaw, a Burmese exile and editor of The Irrawaddy, a Thai-based magazine about Burma.

“Burmese dissidents who planned to sabotage the [constitutional] election,” he says, “feel the cyclone has done their work for them” by driving ordinary Burmese into the arms of the opposition.

Many citizens in this superstitious country seem to believe that the storm represented nothing less than divine retribution—cosmic payback for the violent sacrilege committed by the junta last September, when the military put a bloody end to the “Saffron Revolution.” Crowds of monks had taken to the streets with an estimated 100,000 civilians to protest the country’s deepening economic hardships, including an abrupt fuel-price hike. The regime responded with fury, beating and imprisoning clerics and laypeople alike and killing as many as 138. Now many Burmese see the monster cyclone as proof that Than Shwe and his junta have lost the “mandate of heaven”—the supernatural right to govern.

Recent history shows that a similar process—sometimes minus the supernatural overtones—has occurred in other authoritarian states following major disasters. Such crises tend to underscore government incompetence and corruption, and stiffen resistance to already unpopular rulers.

That’s what happened in Mexico City in 1985. After a massive earthquake hit, the authorities and the country’s aloof president, Miguel de la Madrid, went AWOL for days, leaving citizens to organize rescue efforts themselves. When the president finally did appear, he initially announced that Mexico “didn’t need outside help.” With more than 10,000 estimated dead, survivors had quickly taken to the streets to denounce the government’s weak response. These protests energized a new crop of community activists and opposition leaders, lighting a spark that eventually brought down Mexico’s long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) years later.

An earthquake had a similar effect in Tangshan, China, in 1976. By the time that quake hit, killing up to 600,000, the Cultural Revolution was nearing its end, Mao was ailing and moderate leaders were already plotting to oust his most zealous accomplices. When the government then proceeded to badly fumble relief efforts— refusing international aid, among other things—it strengthened the hand of reformers who wanted to end China’s isolation. Three months later, Mao was dead, the extremist “Gang of Four” was behind bars and the reins of power were passing to Deng Xiaoping—now famous for his unabashed embrace of capitalism.

In each of these cases, the chain of events leading to political change was long and complicated, but the governments’ incompetence in the face of great tragedy helped tip the scales.

This slow-motion process occurred in Nicaragua, too, after a huge quake killed 20,000 in 1972. The country’s dictator, Anastasio Somoza, would hold on for seven more years before being overthrown by the Sandinistas. But the flagrant way Somoza siphoned off foreign assistance and profited from the reconstruction helped turn the business community against him—a shift that ultimately helped spell the dictator’s undoing.

One shouldn’t count out Burma’s leaders yet. The military has managed to cling to power for 46 years now, despite losing an election in 1990 to the party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who’s been under house arrest nearly ever since. And the regime has a ready reply to deny it has now lost its heavenly mandate. In 2005, heeding astrologers’ advice, the officers moved the country’s capital from Rangoon to Naypyidaw, a hardscrabble town some 250 miles north. This location helped the new capital escape the worst of Nargis’s wrath—though of course it’s unclear whether this was a sign of blessing or just dumb luck.

Still, the generals must know that surviving a cyclone is one thing. Avoiding the human earthquake it provokes is a whole other matter.

With Jaimie Seaton in Bangkok, Tim Coone in Managua and Monica Campbell in Mexico City

 

Canada involved in plans for controversial Myanmar summit

Canada involved in plans for controversial Myanmar summit

Where Perspectives Connect

Steven Edwards ,  Canwest News Service

Published: Thursday, May 15
A woman carrying a bag of food and a pair of shoes walks past a house destroyed by cyclone Nargis on the outskirts of Yangon Thursday.
A woman carrying a bag of food and a pair of shoes walks past
a house destroyed by cyclone Nargis on the outskirts of Yangon Thursday.

UNITED NATIONS – Canada risks being pulled into a growing controversy over UN hopes for a global conference on Myanmar after privately hosting a luncheon for mainly western ambassadors who included organizing such an event in their talks.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Thursday an emergency UN summit would take place in Asia, but his office later played down the comment by saying he was actually referring to a gathering by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

But it also emerged Thursday a senior British official had proposed ways to get a UN gathering off the ground when Canadian ambassador John McNee quietly received the ambassadors of the United States, Japan and other leading western powers the day before.

The British hope a planned UN visit next week by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband can serve as a catalyst to organize some sort of meeting at the world body, said people familiar with what was discussed.

But the British are also worried about being accused by the reclusive Myanmar government of pushing a political agenda supposedly aimed at toppling it.

Brown’s office said Thursday the British PM had – when he spoke publicly of the emergency summit – merely been lending his support to a conference proposal made the day before by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The diplomatic manoeuvring is taking place against the backdrop of intense Western efforts to increase pressure on Myanmar’s military rulers to admit more aid to help two million people in dire need after Cyclone Nargis hit two weeks ago.

The central problem has been Myanmar’s poor political relations with the West – not least with Britain, the one-time colonial power in the former Burma.

But at the UN, China has also used its muscle as a veto-bearing Security Council member to effectively relegate efforts to discuss the Myanmar disaster to the agenda item “Other Matters” – instead of allowing the topic to be discussed in its own right, as Western countries want.

This has happened because of China’s general aversion to what it sees as “interference” by the international community if the target country says it doesn’t want help.

UN emergency services co-ordinator John Holmes told guests at the Canadian-hosted luncheon that increasing amounts of aid were arriving, but no one knew how much was reaching the people most in need, said those privy to the meeting.

Holmes plans to travel to the country in the coming days to seek access for aid workers.

The Japanese ambassador told the luncheon that even his country’s emperor had written to the Myanmar junta to ask that it allow in more help.

Other ambassadors present included those of the European Commission, Australia and Finland.

Absent from the discussions, it is said, was talk of applying the “responsibility to protect” principle, which a number of opposition and other commentators have been proposing – and which could involve using force to deliver aid.

“The best way to get aid to the people of Burma is (to) make sure that we can work with the government of Burma to get it through,” Brown said during his monthly news conference in London. “Everybody agrees . . . the best way . . . is to pressure the Burmese government,” he added.

The UN says some 27 flights have delivered aid and another 32 are planned. A Canadian Forces cargo plane with 40 tons of relief supplies left for Thailand Wednesday, while Canada has also set aside $2 million in aid for the Burmese Red Crescent Society.

The cyclone and its aftermath has so far claimed the lives of an estimated 71,000 people, but aid officials fear there will be a far greater death toll if disease causes a second wave of deaths.