China Shows the SPDC Generals How to Mourn

China Shows the SPDC Generals How to Mourn

By Wai Moe May 20, 2008

The Burmese military junta has belatedly called for three days of national mourning for those who died in Cyclone Nargis, beginning on Tuesday.

The announcement on Monday of the period of mourning and the visit made by the junta leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, to refugee camps in Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta demonstrated that the regime leaders are trying show a human face. Or are they just following the lead of China?

The Chinese government also called for three days of national mourning for those who died in the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan province. More than 71,000 died or are missing and more than 22,000 people were injured, according to Chinese official media. Flags are flying at half- mast and at one point the whole nation came to a standstill in three minutes of silence in memory of the dead.

Burma’s period of mourning is the first time such an occasion has been called since the military came to power in 1962.

Critics ask why it has taken the regime more than two weeks before calling on the nation to mourn and why it came just one day after China’s own announcement of national mourning.

After the deadly earthquake hit Sichuan province, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao immediately flew there to oversee rescue operations. A few days later, President Hu Jintao visited the region and met survivors.

The Chinese government immediately dispatched 100,000 troops on a massive rescue and relief mission and 35,000 medical workers also rushed to the disaster zone. More than 100 helicopters were sent, while Beijing also opened the door for international relief missions and accepted donations and aid from foreign countries, even from Japan and Taiwan. 

Contrast this with the Burma scenario, in which the Burmese regime blocked aid and international relief missions and assigned few troops to help out. A handful of helicopters were deployed to fly relief supplies to the devastated Irrawaddy delta region.

Several days passed before the junta organized a state disaster committee, led by Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, the fourth ranking general, whose hometown is in the Irrawaddy delta. He and other ministers left Naypyidaw and traveled to Rangoon, but no further into the delta region.

Thein Sein was unprepared for his mission and reportedly visited survivors in Hlaingthaya, on the outskirts of Rangoon, empty handed, telling the crowds that he would arrange necessary relief goods for them. 

Snr-Gen Than Shwe and his junta colleagues, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye and Gen Thura Shwe Mann, were nowhere to be seen in the days following the cyclone, appearing only to vote in the May 10 referendum, before vanishing again from view.

After declaring a “massive turnout” in the national referendum and overwhelming approval of the draft constitution, Than Shwe reemerged again in public, visiting cyclone survivors in Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta, where he had once served.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a former member of the Communist Party of Burma now living on the Sino-Burmese border, compared Hu Jintao’s visit to Sichuan province with Than Shwe’s visit to the delta region.

The Chinese president received a warm and emotional welcome from survivors, while people in the delta were intimidated by Than Shwe’s presence, Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

Whenever the generals visit an area of Burma, roads are paved, buildings are painted and people are forced to welcome the arrival of the VIP guests. 

During his visit to Kungyangone, soldiers and authorities cleared the road and forced cyclone victims who were begging and waiting for food and water to move out of road and make way for the official convoy. 

A witness told The Irrawaddy, “First, local authorities with batons ordered cyclone survivors to go away from road. But the hungry people refused and stayed there. So they [troops] started to beat them.”

Subsequently, soldiers from the 77th Light Infantry Division arrived to clear the road and moved people from the roadside. Than Shwe was guarded by top brass and armed soldiers.

source:Irrawaddy Online Magzine

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: