Last Thursday, Burma’s most famous comedian, a man named Zarganar was arrested on suspicion of distributing aid to victims of the cyclone following a police search of his house, according to family members.
Zarganar’s arrest coincides with a deliberate attempt by Burma’s ruling Junta to deny the distribution of foreign aid supplies in the wake of the May 2 cyclone which has left an estimated 2.4 million people hungry and homeless. The government has impeded distribution through excessive bureaucratic red tape, legislative delays, and direct military intervention. Reports have emerged charging military personnel with confiscating supplies from needy villagers and redirecting aid workers to Rangoon.
Other reports have charged the junta with hostility towards international donors. One convoy of US Navy ships loaded with relief supplies left the Burmese coast Thursday after waiting for governmental permission to unload the supplies for more than three weeks. In an e-mail to the AP, Lt. Denver Applehans claims "The [Junta] has done nothing to convince us they intend to reverse their deliberate decision to deny much needed aid to the people of Burma."
While the recent cyclone and ensuing humanitarian crisis have brought Junta hostility to the forefront, this behavior is representative of the multi-decade repressiveness that has characterized Junta rule. With that in mind, some experts believe that the junta has impeded humanitarian efforts in order to prevent foreign media from exposing human rights abuses by the ruling military regime. To learn more about the crisis in Burma visit http://www.genocideintervention.net/educate/crisis/burma.
– Teddy Schlanger, Genocide Intervention Network, Membership Assistant