It's time to put the needs of the people first.
Ever since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar on May 3rd and decimated the population of the Ayeyarwaddy River Delta, the international community has been trying to help the cyclone victims.
And in the aftermath of the storm, the military junta in control of that unfortunate country has responded:
- by holding a sham referendum to adopt a constitution that cements the junta's hold on power,
- by refusing to grant entry visas to medical personnel and other aid workers,
- by insisting on distributing all contributed aid itself,
- by re-labeling international aid packages with the names of Myanmar senior generals before handing out the packages,
- by confiscating some of the food aid and replacing it with poor quality substitutes, and
- by preventing foreigners from going to the disaster areas.
The United Nations, in order to avert what it is describing as a "second catastrophe", is calling for an air and sea corridor to funnel supplies and personnel directly into the stricken region. France, Britain and Germany have gone even further.
These three countries plan to propose to the Security Council that the UN invoke its humanitarian 'responsibility to protect' and deliver assistance to the storm victims without the agreement or cooperation of the Myanmar government. Not all EU countries approve of this approach, and there is no indication when France, Britain and Germany plan to make this proposal – or whether China and Russia, who are both against the idea, would veto such action.
As aid shipments pile up waiting for clearance to enter Myanmar via Yangon Airport, as aid workers sit impatiently on the sidelines waiting for permission to enter the disaster areas, and as Myanmar's senior general, Than Shwe, dodges telephone calls from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, people are dying needlessly.
France, Britain and Germany have it right. Protecting the lives and health of the Myanmar people is far more important than protecting the national sovereignty of Myanmar's military regime.