Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Thailand and ASEAN's Weak Response to the Burma Tragedy.

I have been following the Burma tragedy with interest, noting how much the victims of the Tsunami are willing to step and take care of Burma with financial and material support.

You'd think that Thailand, at least, would have an emergency plan in place in case of a natural disaster of this magnitude in light of what happened after the Tsunami.

You'd think it would have logistical capabilities to support a neighboring country in dire straits.

Thailand probably does have the logistical and material capabilities to support Burma.

So why the weak response?

Thailand is not a poor country. It may have a corrupt government that loves to cry poverty, but it isn't poor.

It is also Burma's largest trading partner. It also has a huge Burmese working class slaving away in many industries in Thailand.

You'd think it would be in Thailand's best interest, morally, politically and economically, to step up to the plate and take a leadership role in supporting Burma during this tragedy.

I have noted the ASEAN countries have also been tepid in their response.

From The Nation:

China said it would send $1 million in emergency aid in batches, some of it in cash, to help reconstruction.

Economic giant Japan offered 28 million yen (Bt8.5 million) in emergency aid including tents, electric power generators and other goods.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations appealed for "generous" international aid, with secretary-general Surin Pitsu-wan saying the group has begun to mobilise help through coordination centres in its capitals.

Singapore, which has close ties to Burma, expressed solidarity and pledged $200,000.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said her country was willing to provide aid - but only through UN agencies.

Australia was "ready, willing and able" to send aid, while South Korea announced it would provide Burma with emergency materials worth $100,000.

Washington released an initial sum of $250,000, while Canada has pledged $2 million in humanitarian assistance.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the organisation "will do whatever [necessary] to provide urgent humanitarian assistance", and stressed that a disaster management team was ready to leave for Burma.

The European Union also released ค2 million (Bt99 million) in initial emergency aid.

Note that India and China, two of the region's biggest players, are weak to respond. China, Japan and India have billions invested in propping up the junta in support of their business enterprises, but no cash for the Burmese people. This is quite a revealing mindset.

Ironic that after the Tsunami, countries received billions of dollars in support, a lot of it to Thailand, much of it unaccounted for.

I predict that the Asian countries will do what they always do during tragedies like this, wait for the farang to pick up the tab and clean up the mess.

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