The New York Times
21 May 2008
There is no end to the criminal behavior of Myanmar's generals. Nearly three weeks after Cyclone Nargis killed more than 100,000 people, the junta's refusal to open the country to international help is condemning many more thousands to malnutrition, disease and, unless something is done quickly, death.
The generals have now grudgingly agreed to allow their Asian neighbors to oversee distribution of foreign relief and granted the United Nations World Food Program permission to fly nine helicopters. Given the horrifying size and complexity of the disaster, that's not nearly enough.
Most international disaster specialists are still banned from the storm-devastated area. So, largely, are the United States and France, which have ships loaded with heavy-lift helicopters, food, water, medicine, field hospitals and other supplies waiting in nearby waters.
The generals are similarly determined to subvert a donors conference set for this weekend in Yangon. State-run media claimed that the government has already met victims' immediate needs and would now be moving into the reconstruction phase. Diplomats who attend the conference must make clear that until the junta opens up the country to a full relief effort, there will be no reconstruction help and even after that, any rebuilding projects must be controlled by international organizations not the corrupt regime.
The international community has been walking a fine line, trying to cajole the generals, who only care about staying in power, into cooperating. That hasn't worked, and more lives are lost every day. If the junta does not quickly open up its ports and airports, the United States and France must begin airdropping aid to victims. No one wants a confrontation, but the world cannot sit by while tens of thousands more people die.
We hope that the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, delivers that tough message when he visits Myanmar this week. That is assuming the junta's leader, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, agrees to meet with him. So far, he has refused to accept Mr. Ban's telephone calls.