Wednesday, May 28, 2008

France surrenders?

France appears to have capitulated to the demands of the Burmese junta.* ABC reports:

A French navy ship has docked in Thailand to unload more than 1,000 tonnes of supplies for cyclone victims in Burma.

The ship is carrying enough food to sustain 100,000 people for two weeks.

It is also holding 60,000 tents for people who have lost their homes.

Burma's military government has refused to let the ship deliver the aid directly, even though it has three helicopters on board.

This news is a tragedy for surviving victims of the cyclone -- an estimated 70-80% of whom have yet to be reached. The main challenge is to not how to get supplies into Rangoon, but to how to transport aid to the remote communities of the Irrawaddy Delta. Getting supplies out of Rangoon has proved to be no easy feat. When French aid sits in a warehouse in Rangoon or Thailand, this does help anyone.

The problem likely could have been surmounted had this French warship remained at sea, defied the junta and flown in aid to impacted villages. But arguably such an audacious move would have required the support of Britain and the US.

The Myanmar junta's recent propaganda offensive has successfully bought the regime time. The junta is a champion at buying itself time at the cost of the lives and freedom of its people. Among Western powers, only France had the courage to openly recognize and act upon this perception from the earliest days of the crisis.

France made an honest effort to lead. It was the world that surrendered.

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