The authors at Simply Jean made a couple of oversights in the blog posts that were being made public over the past 2 weeks. In part 1 of a 2 part series, we will address the first oversight – which was the post on Myanmar’s cyclone situation, where Myanmar’s effort was compared against China’s in the post dated 13th May 2008. We felt that the statement "to Myanmar: What use is a country when eventually people go against you? Or are you planning to suppress them regardless?" was rather unfair to the junta in Myanmar.

Firstly, Myanmar, being a sovereign country, has their own constitution and ways to run the country. The cyclone was indeed a sad incident that left many people in the country homeless, hopeless and hungry. While other countries may offer food and financial aid, doing so does not mean that Myanmar has to abide by the wishes of the helping countries. I’m sure Myanmar is trying to help those whom they have access to. While it had been reported that many are not receiving help, I would like to quote Foreign Minister George Yeo that "countries which want to help others struck by disasters must respect their autonomy" and that "(Yangon) have been quite clear about their policy that the rescue effort will be principally their own". I’m not sure if this meant not responding to any call for aid since rescue effort will be principally their own. For a moment, I thought this means that Myanmar have their own means of printing more money and growing more rice. Overnight.

While most of us feel for the hopeless victims, we have to understand that just as we do not want the United States government to come in and decide how much aid each destitute gets, the junta will not be happy if they allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to go into their country and creating a mess out of everything. Remember, mess is relative.

For this oversight, the authors of Simply Jean will like to apologise to the junta in Myanmar and the people in the country for being insensitive to their constitution by joining in the condemnation of the rescue efforts. Or the lack of it.

Beijing – Countries which want to help others struck by disasters must respect their autonomy, said Foreign Minister George Yeo yesterday.

He was speaking to Singapore reporters about the ongoing relief efforts in earthquake-hit Sichuan and cyclone-battered Myanmar, at the end of a four-day official visit to China.

While China has shed its traditional reluctance and welcomed relief teams from Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Russia in recent days following the 7.9-magnitude quake on Monday, Yangon is still turning away international aid agencies from Myanmar and keeping foreigners out of the disaster zone two weeks after Cyclone Nargis wreaked devastation.

But any outside help is always going to be supplementary only, since the key responsibility lies with the government of the affected country, said Mr Yeo.

‘We must respect the autonomy of countries and accept the fact that they know local situations better than foreign people ever can.’

Tomorrow, Asean’s foreign ministers will meet in Singapore to hammer out ways in which the regional grouping might help reclusive Myanmar in the aftermath of the cyclone, which has left at least 133,000 people dead or missing.

Playing down expectations ahead of the meeting, Mr Yeo said: ‘I don’t think the outcome will be a dramatic one because they (Yangon) have been quite clear about their policy that the rescue effort will be principally their own.’

Since Myanmar has been tight-lipped regarding the scale of destruction inside its borders, Asean needs to wait for Yangon to lay down what help it needs, he added.

‘We’ve extended our hands out to them and I’m quite sure that what they ask us to do, we will try to meet as much as we can.’

When calling on Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi yesterday, Mr Yeo briefed him on tomorrow’s meeting and raised the possibility that Asean and Beijing could look for ways to jointly help Myanmar, which is an ally of China’s.

Mr Yang welcomed Asean’s moves, said Mr Yeo.

Myanmar has accepted material aid but only a handful of aid teams from neighbouring countries – China, Bangladesh, India and Thailand – and nothing more, noted Mr Yeo.

Western countries feel much more should be done to help the victims, with some even suggesting that Myanmar should be force-fed aid, he added.

But he said: ‘I don’t see how this can be done because if we try to do that, it will only make the situation worse and it will increase the suffering of the people in Myanmar.’

Yangon is not the only country getting through a natural disaster on its own, noted the minister.

India dealt with the devastation of the 2004 tsunami on its own, as did Japan after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, he said.

Even as Myanmar struggles, the way Beijing is handling what’s been described as the country’s most devastating disaster since 1949 paints a contrasting picture.

‘You can see that they are completely on top of the situation,’ said Mr Yeo. ‘I believe they will emerge stronger, more united, more resilient.’

Article obtained from on 19th May 2008 dated 18th May 2008

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