Breakthrough in Burma: Shwe allows outsiders to save lives

posted at 7:55 am on May 23, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Chalk one up for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. After meeting with Myanmar’s military dictator Than Shwe today, Ban won approval for relief workers of all nations to help save the lives of Shwe’s own people. The move comes a little late for the estimated 133,000 already dead, but it could help keep that number from rising:

Myanmar has agreed to allow “all aid workers” to stage a relief effort for cyclone survivors, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after meeting junta leader Than Shwe here on Friday.

After meeting with the senior general for more than two hours, Ban told reporters: “He has agreed to allow all aid workers regardless of nationalities.”

Asked if the agreement marked a breakthrough, Ban said: “I think so.”

The Yangbon airport will become the center of relief operations, and at least for the moment, it appears the skill and capacity of the US Navy will finally get unleashed. The US sent a significant amount of relief supplies but have been kept out of the country, awaiting permission to start operations. Shwe considered that presence a threat of invasion, thanks to his general paranoia about the US.

It may already be too late for some in the cyclone-ravaged nation, where disease will likely already have taken hold in the areas of destruction. Bodies have decomposed in the open and water tables have been exposed to all sorts of filth. It will take a massive amount of effort to keep hundreds of thousands more Burmese from dying in the weeks ahead.

If Shwe sticks to this agreement, Ban deserves a lot of credit for saving many lives. It will be the most significant accomplishment of the UN in years, perhaps even decades.

Update: Of course, the UN could have put its efforts into more pressing matters in Burma than mass distribution of condoms.  See-Dubya has the details at Michelle’s site.

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I bet the political leaders of Burma are all fat, dumb, and happy with all of the personal necessities of life that they need. The fact that their country is dying isn’t as important as staying in power.

DAT60A3 on May 23, 2008 at 8:02 AM

Can’t help but wonder if there’s something the junta leaders have been desperate to hide from outsiders. Something it took 3 weeks to cover up. Work camps? I’m just speculating but the whole thing is suspicious.

jeanneb on May 23, 2008 at 8:05 AM

It may already be too late for some in the cyclone-ravaged nation, where disease will likely already have taken hold in the areas of destruction. Bodies have decomposed in the open and water tables have been exposed to all sorts of filth. It will take a massive amount of effort to keep hundreds of thousands more Burmese from dying in the weeks ahead.

Heartbreaking and disgraceful.

surrounded on May 23, 2008 at 8:10 AM

too little too late, most likely. but better than nothing.

homesickamerican on May 23, 2008 at 8:15 AM

jeanneb – you may be onto something. It’s very suspicious that they suddenly said okay come on in after the worst has already happened…

Dave Rywall on May 23, 2008 at 8:16 AM

Update: Of course, the UN could have put its efforts into more pressing matters in Burma than mass distribution of condoms.

Hey, it’s a first step. Now when the blue helmets arrive at least the young girls will have some protection when they get raped in exchange for food.

rbj on May 23, 2008 at 8:35 AM

Hey, it’s a first step. Now when the blue helmets arrive at least the young girls will have some protection when they get raped in exchange for food.

rbj on May 23, 2008 at 8:35 AM

yeah.. being raped by the blue helmets in exchange for protection from the other thugs..

DaveC on May 23, 2008 at 8:48 AM

Well know. That should appease the international community for a little, but more importantly, it helps to quell any potential revolution plans that may have been in the works.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on May 23, 2008 at 9:05 AM

yeah.. being raped by the blue helmets in exchange for protection from the other thugs..

DaveC on May 23, 2008 at 8:48 AM

Did you ree See-Dubya’s post?

The United Nations will send nearly a quarter of a million condoms into cyclone-hit Myanmar to help needy survivors with no access to contraceptives, a UN official says.

Now there will be no DNA evidence of rape. Smooth move, UN. Stay classy.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on May 23, 2008 at 9:07 AM

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on May 23, 2008 at 9:07 AM

now they are considerate rapists..

DaveC on May 23, 2008 at 9:09 AM

Too late for so many but alas it is something.

Yakko77 on May 23, 2008 at 9:12 AM

How gracious of the Government.

TooTall on May 23, 2008 at 9:18 AM

God bless the souls of the innocent who were lost while these evil tyrants decided the life and death of 1000s in their country. They say “America is evil” and much of the world agrees as well as some in our own country. Just get the hell out of the way so we can save the lives of your countrymen while you play god.

volsense on May 23, 2008 at 9:26 AM

Chalk one up for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. After meeting with Myanmar’s military dictator Than Shwe today, Ban won approval for relief workers of all nations to help save the lives of Shwe’s own people.

Ed Morrissey

Better late than never I guess, but how many of the victims of this disaster have died that could have been saved, didn’t this cyclone happen about three weeks ago? My hats off to Ban Ki-moon but the UN needs to do a LOT better next time.

Maxx on May 23, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Of course, the UN could have put its efforts into more pressing matters in Burma than mass distribution of condoms. See-Dubya has the details at Michelle’s site.

The UN is making perfect sense in sending in condoms. Peope have sex even after cyclones and may not want children to result. The ability of See-Dubya to see something racim in that almost makes me wonder if Reverend Jeremiah Wright ghost-wrote the column.

The left is correct about the right and racism. When the right brings up, racism it’s always transparent that it has other aims like its anti-sex/pro-human overpopulation fetish in this case. When people see racism used so transparently for other purposes, they get suspicious. The left, on the other hand, thinks racism is evil and thus genuinely does see it everywhere. The left’s racial paranoia is sincere. Paranoia is always sincere.

thuja on May 23, 2008 at 10:25 AM

Peope have sex even after cyclones and may not want children to result.
thuja on May 23, 2008 at 10:25 A

This is amazing.
133,000 dead, you are sifting through the massive devastation, the stench of decaying bodies fill the air, house in ruin, everything you ever worked for destroyed, most every person you loved or knew, killed or missing. You reach down among the rubble, you grab an arm pinned under the rubble and begin pulling, it doesn’t budge…it pulls back, you pull it, it pulls back. You walk around and there is woman trying to pull her husband’s leg out, the same person you are trying to save. Your eyes meet, tears and all of the emotions come out, you embrace, and there on the top of the destroyed house of dreams, you begin a new life…if only you would have had condoms…

right2bright on May 23, 2008 at 10:40 AM

This will be known as the “great U.N. relief effort”. It will be sung in the corridors for decades.

right2bright on May 23, 2008 at 10:41 AM

What a nice touch from these mass murderers–armchair doilies!

patrick neid on May 23, 2008 at 10:51 AM

Update: Of course, the UN could have put its efforts into more pressing matters in Burma than mass distribution of condoms.

This is par for the course for the UN. People starving to death…. send them condoms. You wouldn’t expect the UN to put it’s primary goal of depopulation aside just because of some starving people would you?

This is always the way of the UN, their political objectives first and mercy? Well I don’t think mercy appears anywhere in the UN vocabulary. Let them eat condoms.

Maxx on May 23, 2008 at 11:25 AM

This is amazing.
133,000 dead, you are sifting through the massive devastation, the stench of decaying bodies fill the air, house in ruin, everything you ever worked for destroyed, most every person you loved or knew, killed or missing. You reach down among the rubble, you grab an arm pinned under the rubble and begin pulling, it doesn’t budge…it pulls back, you pull it, it pulls back. You walk around and there is woman trying to pull her husband’s leg out, the same person you are trying to save. Your eyes meet, tears and all of the emotions come out, you embrace, and there on the top of the destroyed house of dreams, you begin a new life…if only you would have had condoms…

right2bright on May 23, 2008 at 10:40 AM

It’s simply not the case that we are making some big decision between condoms and food and medicine. Condoms are neither expensive nor heavy. We can send food and condoms with only trivial more expense. Why not send both? But instead of thinking this through logically, you concoct some irrelevant bathos and accuse me of evil?

This is exactly why I don’t believe a single word the “pro-life” movement says about the fate of human fetuses.

thuja on May 23, 2008 at 12:01 PM

Gee, wouldn’t the people of Burma have been better served if this junta had been suitably forcefully opposed and deposed quite some time ago? The junta didn’t even notify the people a storm was coming! Yeah, Ban Ki-Moon did great, yada yada, but what did he do to save these people before Mother Nature took a hand in the act?

Maquis on May 23, 2008 at 1:09 PM

Now that all the troublemakers are dead and their bodies tossed into the water … we can let in the UN.

I wonder how much the bribe was.

crosspatch on May 23, 2008 at 1:12 PM

It’s simply not the case that we are making some big decision between condoms and food and medicine. Condoms are neither expensive nor heavy. We can send food and condoms with only trivial more expense. Why not send both? But instead of thinking this through logically, you concoct some irrelevant bathos and accuse me of evil?

This is exactly why I don’t believe a single word the “pro-life” movement says about the fate of human fetuses.

thuja on May 23, 2008 at 12:01 PM

Per your words, “thinking this through logically”:
A cyclone devastates the area.
Thousands upon thousands of people are dead.
Crops are destroyed.
Livestock, animals, and human corpses are rotting in the open air.
As a survivor, what are your essentials?
Clean water, food, and shelter. Oh, and condoms so we can continue to screw around!

“Minimal cost and space” for condoms still takes the place of clean water, food, and shelter that people NEED to survive.

You might want to rethink your priorites as if you were a victim while you are sitting in your nice ‘shelter’ typing away at your computer and able to go get a drink and food anytime you want.
Logic is no where to be found in your statements.

As for the leadership of Burma, do not think for a moment that they are not profitting personally by allowing aid into the country. Evil is evil and there is no good in their intent.

SwampRat on May 23, 2008 at 2:37 PM

A case of condoms weighs 16 pounds. A MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) weighs an average of 16 ounces and could support the life of a family for a day if needed. People in Burma are starving and politicians and their bobble heads are gonna ship in condoms, well I hope they send flavored ones.

Buzzy on May 23, 2008 at 2:50 PM

“Minimal cost and space” for condoms still takes the place of clean water, food, and shelter that people NEED to survive.

You might want to rethink your priorites as if you were a victim while you are sitting in your nice ’shelter’ typing away at your computer and able to go get a drink and food anytime you want.
Logic is no where to be found in your statements.

SwampRat on May 23, 2008 at 2:37 PM

I’m glad we’ve had this little discussion. I’ve already mentioned this conversation to a superficially “pro-life” liberal neighbour. I told her if they are this quick to needlessly object to birth control, why should anyone take their claims that abortion is murder seriously? Their agenda about sex and reproduction begins before abortion is even a possibility. She told me she now understands my point and conceded I was right about abortion. So, by all means, keep up your good work objecting to birth control!

thuja on May 23, 2008 at 3:05 PM

A case of condoms weighs 16 pounds. A MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) weighs an average of 16 ounces and could support the life of a family for a day if needed.

What would be interesting is know the number of condoms in a case. I would think it would be quite high. I thought about googling it, but I feared I’d end up clicking on porn sites or computer virus sites.

thuja on May 23, 2008 at 3:10 PM

Uncle Sam note to self:
Next time I want to save a country in the name of spreading democracy and ridding the world of evil dictators, pick a country like Burma where the US army will be greeted as liberators and crowds will throw flowers at our troops…

bayam on May 23, 2008 at 9:15 PM

Given how much control Red China is rumored to have over Burma – and how they see to it that nothing really positive ever happens over there – it’s amazing to me that Burma is letting us help, even with the need so great.

Maybe it’s connected to the fact that China has its own problems to deal with, and we caught both at a moment where one couldn’t interfere with the other’s affairs. (Don’t know if the world really works this way – I’m just sayin’.)

I just wonder, if China didn’t have its own hands full, if this approval to help would have come down from the Burmese leadership.

RD on May 23, 2008 at 9:23 PM

A case of condoms weighs 16 pounds. A MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) weighs an average of 16 ounces and could support the life of a family for a day if needed.

Assuming that they aren’t edible condoms. Keep in mind that those EU – UN people have kinkier condoms than Americans do.

Seriously, though, UN relief organizations generally do an amazing job (I’m not talking about peacekeepers in the Congo). In many cases, you’re talking about unarmed civilians who ignore their own personal safety to restore a broken water system or provide food to the massive refuge camp on the Sudan border or some other God forsaken part of the world. There’s really no other organization that even begins to compare to what the UN does in that regard.

bayam on May 23, 2008 at 9:24 PM

RD on May 23, 2008 at 9:23 PM

I’m in China now, and the whole thing makes me sad. No one here knows or cares a bit about what has happened/is happening in Burma. The coverage of the earthquake here has been beyond obsessive (every channel on tv, 24 hours a day, covering the earthquake, for quite a few days), and my wife and her mother have had nightmares about finding dead bodies, because of that obsessive coverage. Apparently people are/were not allowed to even play games in net cafes without being kicked out, i.e. don’t be happy, people are suffering!

But what about the burmese? What about their suffering? Argh. It’s the government here that is the cause of that, of the burmese people not getting any help. No one cares. No one knows. The PRC’s manipulation of chinese culture is absolute.

MattMacD on May 23, 2008 at 11:59 PM

MattMacD on May 23, 2008 at 11:59 PM

Just want to add, the earthquake here in China was a horrible thing, and I don’t mean to cheapen that. I’ve cried reading about it, seeing pictures, horrible. I just wish the people here were at least allowed to know about what their government is doing with places like Burma.

MattMacD on May 24, 2008 at 12:15 AM