Friday, May 9, 2008

Cyclone Nargis and the Tragedy of Asian Impotence

Anwar Thi just wrote scathing criticism of the regional reaction to the Cyclone Nargis tragedy in Burma here.

I absolutely agree with him.

There are powerful non-western countries in the region who are friendly with the Burmese generals, India, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and China really should have no problems getting into the country to support the people. These personal, diplomatic, business and military connections are deep. China and Japan have propped up this junta for decades with bribes and investments going into the junta's coffers. The Thai military really is not in a position of military and economic might to dictate terms to the Burmese junta, but it does have personal connections with the leadership that should be milked for all its worth. And, no, not just to go golfing and embezzle their people's money to afford luxurious lifestyles.

There is really nothing the West can do, and why should it be responsible anyway?

Asian countries love to cry about regional independence and sovereignty and the evils of western global imperialism. Yet, when it comes to helping a fellow Asian brother, it always "show me the money" or "I can't be bothered" or "it is your karma you are suffering from."

This Cyclone tragedy is really a test of Asian(and ASEAN) leadership.

ASEAN chief Surin Pitsuwan has proven that he is a weak leader and a weak diplomat.

He is acting like a chicken with his head cut off. He is a lone voice in the wilderness while he rest of ASEAN dithers in response. The fact that he is out there doing the Thai 2-step all by his lonesome proves what a worthless diplomat he is.

The UN under its Korean secretary-general is just as bad. It almost makes me nostalgic for the good old Kofie Annan days, who seemed to be on the ball every time there was cataclysmic catastrophe.

In the end, the only country that can do anything is the US, because it has the naval power to airlift food and supplies from ships offshore, which is what it did for Indonesia during the Tsunami.

But who or what is stopping the US from doing this? Burma doesn't have the military capacity now to prevent US helicopters from flying into Rangoon and dropping off supplies or prevent it from creating a perimeter around the city to prevent the US from supplying Rangoon.

No, it is China calling the shots, just like when it calls the shots during UN Security Council meetings every time the issue of Burma comes up.

So, basically, China, which has the economic, diplomatic and military capacity to get international help into Burma, is prolonging this crisis only to preserve its strategic interests in the region.

Let me end with Anwar Thi:

At a time that ASEAN is supposedly transforming itself from a security-cum-economic bloc into something more substantive, at a time that China is struggling to show itself off to the world in advance of an already embattled Olympics, at a time that India is insisting upon a seat at the U.N. Security Council as a new world power, if these countries together keep dragging their feet and fail to act energetically to help millions of people within a stones' throw of their borders, then shame on them, and woe to everything that they falsely claim to represent.

1 comment:

tectona said...

It's sad. But Burma is not your typical brutal dictatorship. It's a brutal retarged ditctatorship backed by a veto-wielding superpower.

If this is your standard third-world country, help from all those neighboring countries, Thailand, Japan etc. would have been flowing in by now.

But Burma is owned by China, so to speak. It's unpalatable, no unthinkable, to the Chinese for the US/Western/ free Asian personnels to be running around showing the good sides of humanities, relieving the miseries of the people. The implication is just too dangerous to the current regime.

Look at the map.. Burma is the backdoor into China, leading straight to Szechuan, the historic heartland and refuge where emperors, and most recently Chiang Kai-shek retreat to in times of trouble. Burma is the only alternate opening China has. China is surrounded by Russia, India, and on their eastern shores totally hemmed in by US Navy. If Burma is in western-friendly or even neutral regime, comes time of conflicts with great naval power, i.e. with US over Taiwan, China will be at a serious disadvantage and will have little leverage at all--they can be blockaded into submission in a matter of months, I think.

Anyway... just my analysis.. I think we will see more obstruction, obfuscation.., while things go from bad to worse.