A tale of two disasters

Our view: Myanmar junta could learn from China quake relief

May 15, 2008

Myanmar's ruling junta has sacrificed the lives of its people to selfishly protect its secretive, repressive government. Human life means little to the generals in power, and their restrictions on food, shelter, water and other relief aid for cyclone victims is ample proof of that. Their indifference to the critical needs of survivors will consign so many more of them to death. Myanmar's rulers need only look to its neighbor to see that a military response to a natural disaster is foremost about saving lives, not safeguarding the regime.

Within a week of Cyclone Nardis overwhelming Myanmar's delta region, a powerful earthquake rocked a large swath of Sichuan province in southwestern China, killing at least 13,000. But unlike what happened in Myanmar, the Chinese military took the lead in rescue efforts, persevering through severe weather and an enormity of misery. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrived on the scene of the disaster within hours of Monday's quake, and he wasn't alone. A group of reporters accompanied him; Chinese leaders smartly recognized the importance of beaming the disaster - the emergency needs and Beijing's quick response - across China and the world. With the international community anticipating the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government's response to the earthquake provided an opportunity to show a side other than its repressive treatment of Tibet. Now China should enlist its trading partner, Myanmar, to follow its lead and usher in relief agencies before thousands more die.

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