What on earth are we to make of those drongos in uniform that run Burma? Yes, do note that I am deliberately continuing to use the name Burma, with good reason; for that and much else about this troubled country see the rather good Wikipedia entry.
Our own Opposition has homed in on the Rudd government’s promised $3 million of aid as “pathetic” in contrast to the Howard government’s response to the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, with Alexander Downer leading the charge: PM’s aid to Burma ‘pathetic’. On the face of it, that seems fair comment, but I suspect we should also look at the differences between the two cases. In 2004 we were dealing with co-operative governments who swiftly opened up to assistance, despite the potential problems. Aceh, after all, had been the focus of a separatist movement and virtual civil war, and Sri Lanka too has had more than its share of problems. Nonetheless, in neither case were there the roadblocks and sheer bloody-mindedness that the generals in Burma have presented. Are they still having that stupid referendum today?
It may be that our government’s response is related to the pressure being brought to bear on those generals to act more responsibly; it may be that our government does not want to see aid in the control of a Burmese government that is determinedly but subtly — and not so subtly — engaged in genocide in those parts of the country it does not want foreigners to see.
It is at least some consolation, I suppose, that fanatical religion is not one of the drivers of the Burmese regime; it is a change to see secular tinpot dictators rather then theocrats, I suppose.
Meanwhile for so many Burmese it will all be just too late.