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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

Elements outfox junta

One month after Cyclone Mocha wreaked havoc on Myanmar's western region, the world is watching the junta's response with grave concern.

Global doubts have persisted despite the junta's attempts to impress the international community that its "effective action" saved thousands of lives from the cyclone that swept the coast on May 14.

In a note to the media, Than Htwe, the deputy chief of Myanmar's diplomatic mission in Bangkok, praised Myanmar's State of Administration (SAC) for its handling of the killer storm.

He praised the SAC's "management capability, efficient action, and ability to plan long-term by quickly coming up with a resettlement plan for those affected by the cyclone".

He said 145 people had perished in a storm-induced landfall as of May 22, while over 183,000 houses, thousands of religious buildings, hospitals and schools were badly damaged in Rakhine, which is home to the minority Rohingya.

Pictures of the damage released by foreign news agencies have stunned the world, and many suspect the SAC's official death toll misrepresents the true count. As of yesterday, the toll had climbed to 148.

In his note, Than Htwe expressed his appreciation for the humanitarian assistance extended to affected communities from friendly countries, adding the SAC "welcomes other members of the international community to support the recovery process."

But some agencies have countered the Myanmar diplomat's claims.

The United Nations on June 13 alleged the Myanmar junta had suspended travel authorisations for aid workers trying to reach survivors who are struggling with a lack of food and necessities.

At the same time, the Jakarta-based Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights yesterday blasted the junta for what it dubbed as an inadequate and discriminatory response to the storm.

"We are deeply concerned about the welfare of Cyclone Mocha survivors, especially those located in ethnic minority regions," APHR chairman and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives Mercy Barends said.

The agency encouraged donor countries and aid agencies to divert their aid to local ethnic and civil society organisations that have a proven track record of helping those most in need.

The alleged indifference is reminiscent of the junta's poor reaction under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) during Cyclone Nargis, which claimed at least 20,000 lives in 2008, the agency said.

Since Gen Min Aung Hlaing staged a coup in February 2021, the country is now a regressive state, as its short-lived democracy came to an abrupt end.

The military imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi and her aides, carrying out rounds of brutal suppression against pro-democracy groups and killing a large number of civilians.

As such, UN representatives and aid workers face constant challenges in carrying out their duties even without a killer storm to contend with, while the junta leader has shunned Asean's efforts to restore democracy and peace through negotiations.

The SAC cannot build its name from words or propaganda. The rulers must open the country and ease the work of aid workers so that they can reach and alleviate the suffering of those in the storm-ravaged area. Humanitarian aid cannot be compromised.

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